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    by Mike McHugh

The Power of Apprenticeship Training
Date Posted: February 14, 2008

Most educators eventually begin to recognize that children, and especially teenagers, often learn best by doing something educational rather than simply reading about it. The Creator has clearly placed within human beings the desire to be imitators. Children in particular commonly love to imitate the actions of those around them. For this reason, home educators should consider how best to incorporate “hands-on” learning into their weekly routine, while they also strive to get their older children into some sort of apprenticeship training.

As a student of history, I have frequently been impressed by the number of famous people from world or American history that were exposed to apprenticeship training in their youth. A few such figures are listed below:

The man who was responsible for inventing moveable type and printing the first Bible, Johannes Gutenberg, first worked as an apprentice.

The first president of the United States, George Washington, obtained hands-on experience as a young man in surveying and soldiering.

The famous home school prodigy and inventor, Thomas Edison, began his career apprenticing under a telegraph operator.

Abraham Lincoln was apprenticed at a law office, and the lady who sewed the first “Stars and Stripes” flag, Betsy Ross, received early training as a seamstress.

The directors of the nationally recognized Patrick Henry College located in Virginia, include the following remarks regarding apprenticeship in their “Fundamental Statements”:

“Though this approach goes back to classical and Biblical times, apprenticeship as a formal educational methodology had its origins in the medieval guilds. A young person would learn a trade or a profession under the tutelage of a “master” in that trade or profession. Working side by side with the master and helping him do his work, the apprentice learned by means of practical, real world experience.

The early universities adopted this model in teaching students the arts and sciences, as reflected in the terminology and the system of degrees that are still used today. College faculties organized themselves along the lines of the guilds. Just as the guilds granted licenses as the apprentice advanced in his mastery of the profession, students studying under their “masters” were granted degrees. The first level of certification was the “bachelor’s degree,” the term referring to a junior member of a guild (Bachelor, 1989). With further study, the bachelor could himself become accepted as “master” and would be given a “master’s degree.”

These universities taught the classical liberal arts. Though professional colleges developed in specialized fields such as theology, medicine, and law, the foundation for them all was the liberal arts. The broad nature or scope of a liberal arts education was considered foundational for all professions, which, for the most part, were entered into through apprenticeships.

With the development of the Protestant Reformation, the liberal arts were connected to “vocation” in the theological sense, that God calls every Christian to a life of service in the family, the country, and the workplace.

The Reformation was accompanied by an educational explosion, motivated by the necessity to equip all Christians --- women as well as men, plow boys as well as nobility --- to read the Bible and thus to enter into a personal relationship with God through His Word (Deuteronomy 6). Significantly, the Reformation schools and home schools did not stop with teaching basic literacy. They adopted the curriculum and the pedagogy of the liberal arts.”

The historical roots of apprenticeship training are profound and deep. From Biblical times to the present hour, the desire to equip young people with the skills that they need to be useful and productive workmen, has seldom waned. Christian parents in particular, have commonly employed some form of apprenticeship training in order that their children might be prepared to pursue a calling in life that is consistent with their unique gifting.

As most people might guess, there is no one way to pursue apprenticeship training. For many families, however, it makes sense to begin by exposing their children to a wide variety of educational and vocational activities for the express purpose of discovering those areas in which their youngsters are most gifted. Once parents have a sense of where their children’s God-given talents lie, they can begin to search for individuals from their community with mastery in a given field to act as tutors to their children. In some cases, parents who already possess expertise in a particular field may be able to simply provide the specialized training themselves. In most instances, however, families will need to reach out to professionals from their extended family or to church/community contacts.

Home school parents that operate their own family business can often provide some of their children with training and practical skill development within the context of their business operations. Even in cases where home businesses are not in the picture, parents can and should endeavor to pass on to their children as many practical skills as possible. Fathers can often teach their children about disciplines such as auto mechanics, painting, and carpentry. Mothers, on the other hand, may be in the position to provide instruction in areas such as sewing, home economics, gardening, and interior decorating.

Regardless of the extent to which your home school family may wish to pursue apprenticeship training, the ultimate focus should be on preparing the “arrows” that God has entrusted to you so that they will fly from your home and make the maximum impact for the Kingdom of God. Parents must train their children in such a way as to permit them to catch a vision for their career that is much broader than simply a vain steeplechase to obtain as many dollars as possible. Young people must be given a clear mandate to settle for nothing less than complete mastery of their chosen profession for they are, after all, ultimately working for King Jesus. (Note Colossians 3:17-24)

Hands on learning and apprenticeship training can often help to equip young adults to develop the skills that are necessary to truly become an expert in a chosen profession. May God help parents to chart a course of training for their children that will maximize their potential to inflict as much damage as possible against the kingdom of darkness. Perhaps Psalm 127:3-5 says it best, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Amen!

Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh

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Biography Information:
This column is written by the staff at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a pioneer in the homeschool movement, Christian Liberty ministries has been operating a full service, K-12 home school program for over thirty years and a Christian textbook ministry (Christian Liberty Press), since 1985. The mission of Christian Liberty is to provide parents with quality, affordable educational products and services that will enable them to teach their children in the home and to train their children to serve Christ in every area of life. A more extensive explanation of the CLASS home school program can be obtained at www.homeschools.org.
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