Education and Faith

Educating your kids in the mission field is for many of us a battle within ourselves to trust our most prized possessions to God.  Some missionaries homeschool, but then their kids don’t learn the language or assimilate into the culture as well.  Others send their kids to national schools, which can be good, but are often terrible.  Bullying can be a real problem.  Others send their kids away to boarding schools.  There are many great boarding schools, but I cannot imagine how difficult that is for both parents and kids.  Others build school that serve the local missionaries as well as the local population.  That is what we are doing here.  Our school is 90% Peruvian, and 10% missionary kids.  For that reason we follow a Peruvian curriculum, not a German curriculum nor American. And it is so hard for us as parents to trust the curriculum.  We are used to our cultural way of doing things, and honestly some of the ways they educate here seem crazy.  There is a class called “Math Reasoning” that seems like a complete waste of our kids, their teachers, and our personal time.  It is not an exaggeration to say that sometimes when I am helping my kids with this bit of homework, I want to quit being a missionary.  Nothing makes me want to go home more than this little bit of curriculum.  It sounds crazy, and to type it also makes me feel totally wimpy, but it is the truth.  I start thinking about this wasted bit of educational time, then I imagine what else they are not learning, and then I think about the PSAT and SAT or ACT and I start to lose faith.  God help me, a person of so little faith!  But then we have these moments of light, when a school activity or science project goes well.  Or we hear our kids speaking Spanish with their friends, and we realize how much they are learning in so many other ways.  And I pray and I try to trust a little more.  Bringing your kids to another country, especially a poor part of another country with few resources, is a challenge.  It is hard for them, and it is hard for us parents.  Please pray for us!  Enjoy also this article from the Diospi Suayan Hospital website sharing a moment of light at school.  The first picture has one of our favorite students!

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Bright Minds

In the forth grade class of Colegio Diospi Suyana, the bright minds were asked to perform their own experiment and explain their findings.  The school kids had soon finished their projects, which showed their great ingenuity.

Abigail used food to create a volcanic eruption.  Bruno and Omar astonished their fellow students by demonstrating the floating differences using different salt solutions.  A real problem in Curahuasi is the drinking water.  Luis and Cesar were inspired by this to create a natural filter that turns murky soup into crystal clear water.  However, Edy’s project created the greatest attention.  He had built a miniature table saw, driven by the crankshaft via a battery that even cut wood sticks.

Teacher Jaquelin beamed with pride while looking in the faces of the student inventors.  Everyone had a lot of fun while learning the practical aspects of the laws of nature.  The natural sciences are an enourmously important department of a school.  Through experiments and research projects, students can discover for themselves how awesome God created this world.

By the way, our growing school is urgently looking for a well-trained biology, chemistry, or physics teacher who is able to use experiments and practical demonstrations to teach our young researchers.  We are looking for a true pioneer, because he/she would invest several years in the classroom, developing and guiding the Peruvian colleagues.  Pray someone will find and sign up with us! /C.B.

Why does salt water cause the egg to rise to the top?

Why does salt water cause the egg to rise to the top?

Water filter made with cotton, wool, and soap.

Water filter made with cotton, wool, and soap.

Secret messages painted with lemon appear using a candle.

Secret messages painted with lemon appear using a candle.

The vulcanic eruption

The vulcanic eruption

I love you, America

This is intended to be a series of blogs in which Will and I discuss things that we miss or are thankful for when we think about our home country.  I hope that it increase thankfulness and patriotism in our American readers.

Today’s topic is education.  As you may have read in previous posts, the American education system shines in comparison to the Peruvian schools.  For instance, our teachers attend class every day or arrange for a substitute when they cannot be there.  We also stress thinking and learning skills rather than rote memorization.  Too much to say there, so I’ll move on…

One thing we have learned is that America’s flexibility when it comes to educating your kids is a real blessing for missionaries.  In Costa Rica, homeschooling was illegal, so you had to find a school that would work for your family.  In Germany, it is discouraged and makes life difficult for kids who want to go to university.  In many countries it seems that you have to educate your kids as the government wants or you cannot participate in higher education, which is super tough for people living overseas.

After a few limited conversations with our German friends we understand that teenagers must take an important test at age 16 that will determine their ability to attend university (and which level of school) and they must also have some idea what they would like to study.  The parents we have talked to feel like this is too young, that their teenagers don’t know what they want to do nor are they mature enough to take this testing as seriously as they should.  Some missionaries feel like they need to either send their kids or take the whole family back to Germany when their kids are 15 years old to start to prepare for the test.  Both sets of parents expressed that they would rather keep their kids with the family for longer, but that they don’t want to harm their future in Germany.

As Americans, we just have to educate our kids somehow until age 18 (or so) and then whatever college they can get into will work.  If they are super smart and ambitious but don’t score well on the first set of college entrance tests, they can try to get into a more competitive school after a couple of years of undergrad studies.  They also have the flexibility to think about career choice for the first couple of years of college, no matter how much that might stress out their parents.   There is a big difference in the decision-making abilities of a 15/16 year old and a 20 year old.  Of course, the state is paying for our German friends’ kids’ education while we will wrestle with the cost of education, but we are so thankful that we won’t have to worry about our kids’ opportunities in the same way and that we have a few extra years to stay on the mission field and keep our family intact.

Last Place Education

Once again I am asking for prayers for the Diospi Suyana School.  It can make such a big difference here in Curahuasi, and maybe even in Peru.  The results of an international evaluation of education placed Peru in 65th place out of 65 countries in all three areas of math, science, and literacy.  We have experienced this lack of quality as we put our kids in the Peruvian schools.  We tried two schools and then eventually quit both of them.  We were not super concerned about how much they learned (although in general this is very important to us); we wanted them to learn Spanish.  However in the first school the teachers hit the kids with rulers or small whips if they did not perform well or work fast enough.  In the second school we had a rule that if the teacher did not show up 1 1/2 hours after school was supposed to begin, then the kids could walk home.  Yes our kids learned a lot of Spanish, and even some Quechua, but they learned little else.  We finally decided it was a waste of their time, and it was not worth the battle of tears we had from several of them each day to continue with this seemingly fruitless exercise.  As an example of education here, the expectation in our town is that kids will read by the age of 9-10.  Thats not a very high expectation, I think you will agree.  As we read the following article from the Diospi Suyana Hospital website, it reminded us of how David has told us that he does not think his classmates have any idea what a “chapter book” is.  That is both a consequence of funding as well as low expectations.  Low expectations are a trap in thinking, because after a while you quit recognizing them as low expectations, and you think that they are normal expectations.  I think that this is what has happened in our community.  I pray that our school will shake things up a little bit.

Pisa study: Peru in last place in all test areas

A dubious fame: Peru ranked 65 out of 65 participating countries

Every three years, the results of the PISA study global come out. 15-year-old students are tested in the areas of math, literacy and science knowledge and understanding.  The current study included 65 countries, which account for approximately 80% of the world’s population. In all three areas of Peru was in last place. These results make clear the extent to which Diospi – Suyana School for many children could be a blessing.  The pedagogy in Peru is obviously not capable of withstanding an international comparison. Blunt memorization might form “Yes” persons, but not independently thinking individuals. We wish Christian Bigalke, the future director of the Colegio Diospi Suyana, much success with his educational concept.

The Man with the Good News – From Diospi Suyana

Another bit of good news from the Diospi Suyana website.  We are excited about the school that is being built in Curahuasi, Peru.  It hopefully indicates a good education for the young boys and girls growing up there.  It also will likely mean a good education for our children as well.  It will be interesting to send our kids to a school where the teaching is in Spanish, and the education is based on the German educational system.  I am not sure where that will leave our kids, but I hope that leaves them well educated with a mind open to the world.  I am thankful for the Christian education, because as I hope they develop this expanded world view, I hope even more that they will see the glory of God in what they learn, and that they will wish to be a part of the good work that God is doing in this great world that he has created. Continue reading