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    Benefits of Home Education {II}

    November 24, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    I assume that this series will drag on over the years, the category giving me a place to keep my happy memories of this time in our lives. But before I get to the subjective, peculiar-to-our-family benefits, I want to talk about the benefit I think is generally possible, to varying degrees, for Christian home education projects. I think this benefit has huge, culture-changing, culture-strengthening ramifications.

    Here’s my assertion: A powerful benefit of home education is the strengthening of the older generations. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if we want a culture that is highly educated {in the strict, spiritual sense of the word, not in the standardized-test-passing sense of the word}, firm in conviction, and thriving, you need a large percentage of the population involved in deliberately passing on knowledge to the younger generation.

    Looking to His Word

    Last night, I was rereading Deuteronomy 6-8. These passages have inspired many a lesson plan here on the microhomestead. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 tends to be popular with Christian homeschoolers in general:

    These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

    There is really so much more than this, if you keep reading, keeping in mind what sort of lifestyle Israel is called to. For instance, in verse 20, the LORD says that once the children are taught in this manner, sons are going to show up asking what it all means. And are the fathers to lecture children on what the meaning is?

    No. At least, not exactly.

    They are to give a history lesson:

    [T]hen you shall say to your son, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.”

    Deuteronomy 6:21-23

    We are shown that the meaning of the LORD’s law was found in history, in what He had done, in the works of His hands. This is why learning cannot be viewed as the consumption of various disconnected utilitarian subjects. Truly all things are summed up {ἀνακεφαλαιόω} in Christ.

    Before this suggestion that history is the answer to the question “Why?” we have a warning. The same warning comes again afterwards. The LORD says He is going to bring the people into a good land, and they are going to receive all of these good things: houses, crops, wells, etcetera. They will eat, He says, and they will be satisfied. In that moment of satisfaction comes the temptation:

    …then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

    Deuteronomy 6:12

    In chapter 8, we see the same thing. This time, the LORD gives them a history lesson concerning forty years of wilderness living, manna from heaven, and clothes that did not wear out. He tells them again of the good gifts which will satisfy them. And then comes the warning:

    Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

    Deuteronomy 8:11-14

    We see here a pattern of satisfaction breeding pride, which causes the people to forget God. And how is God forgotten? In not keeping His commands.

    God’s Antidote to Memory Loss

    Isn’t is interesting that His command to teach the children and talk about Him all day and write about Him on walls, all of this is what would not only pass the faith to the next generation, but also help the current generation remember?

    I experience this first hand. When a seven-year-old and a five-year-old start arguing over the Trinity, and look to me to settle it, suddenly I’m remembering the theology I’ve been taught. As I pass on the faith, I myself grow in my faith.

    Now, remember, I said that benefits are not the same as reasons for. This is so important, because if I go into this seeking myself, I’d have it all wrong. But as I journey in seeking to do the Lord’s will, I find that my children aren’t the only ones who have grown.

    We get our our growth as a result of feeding and watering someone else.

    But…This is not my Experience

    Let’s say that Molly the Homeschool Mom (an entirely fictional person, to be sure) says that she home educates from a place of conviction. However, comma, she does not regularly experience growth through the lessons. How in the world might first grade inspire a grownup? That is what baffles Molly the most.

    There are a few things possibly going on here.

    1. Molly is simply in a hard stage. Life is a valley right now, not a mountain-top, and the family’s education, and her own lack of growth, reflects this. What she needs, then, is comfort and support. I get very tired of families being told that they are morally obligated to provide their children with a Christian education, and then no one equips them and no one helps them when they are at the end of their wits. If we do not step in when times are hard, or the task of schooling seems insurmountable, we should not be surprised when some of our children are abandoned back into the public schools.

    However, comma, we need to look at the other possibilities.


    2. Molly herself was trained by the “traditional” {for the last 100 years, anyhow} school system to be completely unaffected. See John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling if you want to really understand this “lesson” which the school system in America teaches. In his essay The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher {which is actually a speech given upon being awarded “New York State Teacher of the Year” in 1991}, the third lesson he teaches is indifference. He writes:

    I teach children not to care too much about anything…How I do this is very subtle. I do it by demanding that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with each other for my favor. It’s heartwarming when they do that; it impresses everyone, even me. When I’m at my best I plan lessons very carefully in order to produce this show of enthusiasm. But when the bell rings I insist they drop whatever it is we have been doing and proceed quickly to the next work station. They must turn on and off like a light switch. Nothing important is ever finished in my class nor in any class I know of. Students never have a complete experience except on the installment plan.

    Indeed, the lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Years of bells will condition all but the strongest to a world that can no longer offer important work to do.

    Most of us were taught this lesson for at least thirteen years of our lives. In fact, I spent college learning to care about ideas again. Having the type of father I have spared me from complete indifference, for he cares so passionately I fear he may someday burst.

    Most of us are damaged goods, and there is a chance that lessons are uninspiring not because there is something wrong with the lessons, but because there is something wrong with us. We are born into this world naked, true, but gifted with a generous supply of awe and wonder. And then people are paid to trample on it for our entire childhood. The result is a culture of apathy.

    This requires nothing short of repentance, and the tutoring of the Holy Spirit, teaching us how to care, and therefore how to really learn.

    What if adulthood wasn’t meant to be the serious, joyless, unaffected life it seems, on the surface, to be?

    But there is one more possibility.

    3. Molly’s lessons or curriculum or whatever she likes to call it are fact-based rather than ideas-based. As she plows through one sanitized textbook after another, she remembers why she hated school, but she tries her best to look excited so that her children don’t hate it as much as she did.

    I saw this quote on Mystie’s blog the other day:

    And I think it possible that by confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happens, you would fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. For in fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones; and the terrible figures are not merely terrible, but sublime. It would be nice if no little boy in bed, hearing, or thinking he hears, a sound, were ever at all frightened. But if he is going to be frightened, I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St. George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comfort than the idea of the police.

    –C.S. Lewis

    And another is like it:

    No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally worth reading at the age of fifty.

    –C.S. Lewis

    Sometimes, curriculum is the problem. Unaffected writing leads to the memorization of meaningless dates and names which leads to unaffected hearts. Put the meaning back into the dates and names, and then they will be worth putting in the effort to remember. You will remember the year 1066 and wonder why such a wonderful king {Harold II} would triumph so beautifully at the Battle of Stamford Bridge only to be buried months later at the Battle of Hastings. And then you will have to let go of that anxiety and deal with the fact that it was simply the Lord’s will that William the Conqueror…conquer.

    Or you will read of the courage of Ambrose {Bishop of Milan in the 300s}, of how he denied Emperor Theodosius communion and the result was not martyrdom, but a beautiful triumph in the soul of the emperor, who repented of his deeds, which led to changes in state policy, and more importantly, a better emperor in general. And then when you read the news and learn that Rep. Patrick Kennedy was encouraged by Bishop Tobin of the Roman Catholic Church to forgo the taking of communion due to his support and encouragement of abortion rights, having more blood on his hands than Theodosius himself, you will take heart that there are still brave bishops somewhere in the world, that the courage and bravery of the great saints is still alive and active in the world today.

    And you are raising up yourself and your children to follow in the footsteps of those who went before, the great household of faith and courage and conviction. This, my friends, is nothing less than changing the world.

    In Conclusion

    I could tell you that Abraham Lincoln said that the “philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government of the next,” but I’d rather end with the poem that has been hanging on my refrigerator for at least five years now. It is inspired by Wallace’s poem The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and I would highly suggest reading the original. But this short one is nice, too:

    They say that man is mighty,
    He governs land and sea,
    He wields a mighty scepter
    O’er lesser powers than he;

    But mightier power and stronger
    Man from his throne has hurled,
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.

    What we sometimes miss is that it changes the world, because it changes not only our children, but us as well.

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