ATI Regional Conference
- Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
Conference Helps Home-Schoolers Resist Peer Pressure Through Religion
By Malena Ogles
Staff Writer—Tyler Morning Telegraph
The conference was held at the International ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, a military-style Christian school that trains young men ages 17 to 24 in emergency assistance.
The Advanced Training Institute International (ATI) conference, held April 29 to May 2, is one of three home schooling conferences in the United States that provides curriculum and training to support home schooling parents in raising their children on the principles of the Bible.
At the same time, the children are off playing games, reading Bible verses and learning how to grow as Christians.
The program started in 1989, and for the past five years has used the International ALERT Academy in Big Sandy as their central location.
The activities at the conference are geared toward helping children pursue their relationships with God and their families. Founded by Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles is a biblically based, not-for-profit, nonsectarian training and service organization.
Gothard, who spoke to a group of young people Wednesday at the conference, said one of the largest problems facing today’s youth is a willingness to sacrifice standards, morals and health to be socially accepted by peers.
“God has created every person for a purpose, and when (God) helps them identify what his purpose for their life is then they don’t need to have the acceptance of their friends and can be accepted by God for his purpose and have a greater joy, confidence and maturity,” Gothard said.
Gothard said his program is built around home education, which takes the young people away from a lot of peer pressure.
One girl, Rebecca, a daughter of missionary parents, spoke to the group about her struggles with wanting to fit in with her peers. When she was rejected by her peer group, she tried other ways to conform, which she said was not following God’s plan.
Gothard said many youth have experiences similar to Rebecca and fear the rejection of peers more than a rejection from their parents or God.
“The big problem is that they have not seen a real God. They have never seen a powerful God — a supernatural act of God,” he said.
Gothard went on to explain that concentrations of people working toward the same spiritual goal are more likely to be able to witness a “supernatural act” or the power of God.
Maj. Roger D. Farr, ALERT Cadet Commanding Officer, said stories about home-schooled children growing up socially awkward are nothing more than myths.
All of his children were home-schooled, and one is completing his degree in biomedical engineering and headed to veterinary school.
Chrissie Jalbert, 24, and her sister Laurie, 22, both of Tampa, Fla., attended the conference as team leaders for the Journey to the Heart, a 10-day IBLP program that helps young people form new belief systems. Both said growing up in a home school enhanced their lives by allowing them learn through experience rather than through books. The young women are active in IBLP and run their own wedding music business.
The girls said the focus of their home schooling was on music and both girls are classically trained on several instruments.
“They are actually able to make decisions. They are able to become peer independent rather than peer dependent. It teaches them to look at the scriptures rather than their friends,” Farr said.
Farr said the team leaders take young ladies through the Excel Program, where they learn what it means to be women of God.
“They’re doing some fun stuff like crafts, putting on skits. We talk about moral purity and courtship,” Farr said. “Moms are off learning about how to raise their daughter and the dads are off learning how to talk to their sons.”
The girls wear long skirts for modesty and take part in activities such as cake decorating, sewing, CPR and etiquette.
The same principles are taught to the boys separately.
“Make sure you have a wife before you have children — not the other way around,” he said.
Throughout the day the boys, separate from the girls, take part in obstacle courses, repelling and drill exercises. Farr and a group of young men demonstrated their catapult skills by targeting blue barrels with water balloons. Farr said they are learning how the machine works.
Janny Moore, a team leader, said home schooling has allowed her to have a better relationship with her siblings.
“We spent a lot more time together,” she said.
Moore and other home-schooled students talked about how they enjoyed being able to experience their lessons rather than study them in a classroom. Moore cited a time when her family visited historic battlefields they learned about in history.
“They can relate freely with adults and other youth and children, whereas those that grew up in a public school tend not to relate to adults and children but their own age group,” Farr said. “It is a great program and I have had the privilege to see them grow up. There is such a light in the eyes of these young people.”