by Dr. Richard A. Jones
History shows that nearly every nation has ultimately caved in to a very counter-intuitive (satanic?) temptation: That the only sensible way for 4 and 5 year-old children to begin their life-education journey is that they be ripped away from the care of Mom and Dad at home and turned over to “professional specialists” in state-controlled classrooms. Over time, a second fallacy took shape: That the teaching of academics is a more important, more difficult undertaking than training youth in God’s spiritual basics. This latter task, apparently, is something “easily done at home on a ‘whenever’ basis.” Regrettably, these two personal and culture-crippling myths now prevail in spite of centuries of evidence to the contrary. Schools at home have produced some of history’s most illustrious and, frequently, God-honoring citizens. Here’s just a short list of famous homeschoolers.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D Roosevelt. Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Florence Nightingale, Agatha Christie, Pearl S. Buck. “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton. John Singleton Copley, Andrew Wyeth, Claude Monet. Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis. Anton Bruckner, Felix Mendelssohn, Amadeus Mozart, Irving Berlin, Francis Poulenc. Joan of Arc, John & Charles Wesley, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, William Carey, Dwight L. Moody, John Newton, Hudson Taylor. John Rutledge, John Jay, John Marshall. Blaise Pascal, Booker T. Washington, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, John Stuart Mill.
The inspiring lesson illustrated by this list should remind us of something. Shouldn’t it be the most natural thing that proud parents the world over would always and eagerly look forward to the day when they too could set in motion a home-based program that might bring a similar new figure to the world? Why give their potential history-changers robotically away to others? But, since none of the above listed note worthies were born in the 20th century, it’s fair to ask, why is there such a conspicuous dearth of such people in our day?
You’re already aware that the 20th century is the period in which compulsory, worldwide mind-molding in national schools by dictatorial governments (like ours) became the norm. So then, take the remaining extra step of looking at the cultural horrors of the 20th century and then give it and its leaders a grade. When you do you may, along with me, say that “homeschoolers to the rescue” is a song we should all be singing.
Unfortunately, too many humanistically-trained parents have been robbed of their God-given, natural inclination to nurture greatness at home. Instead, they’ve become unwilling to take the kind of pro-child, pro-culture step that might risk disrupting their own lives or careers. Money, materialism, sports and personal pleasure are today’s bywords. Even Christians, both pastors and parents, are not immune from the power of these lures.
How do Christians justify wiggling out of their home training obligations? By far, the most “popular” tactic is to try and put a clever reverse spin on one of homeschooling’s most foundational texts. In summary, the passage in Deuteronomy 6:1-9 calls for God’s people to keep His commands and statutes forever in order to ensure a long life and so that “all will go well with them.” Children must be taught His ways when “sitting in the house, when walking, when lying down and when rising up.” This, obviously, is a figurative way of saying “all of the time.” But, many duty-duckers mockingly insist that this famous text was, first of all, intended for ancient Israel only (handy for them to say) and that it can’t possibly be taken literally. They’re right, but for the wrong reasons.
Because of the inescapable realities of daily mom/dad, vocational/household duties as complicated by the human tendency to put things off, God understood that His apparent “all the time” schedule could not possibly be kept ? literally. He also knew that the less “perfect” the parent, the better the chance they’d miss the mark. Thus an “all-the-time” reminder-approach was necessary if the all-important, 10 to 12 year span of spiritual nurturing was to get done. (In comparison, the early academic aspect is easy for parents. Able-to-read-kids soon, with parental encouragement, regularly teach themselves new material.) So, figurative speech, yes, but to be taken as literally as is humanly possible.
Refusers of home disciplining further claim that the figurativeness (and thus the supposed “vagueness”) of the Deuteronomy passage gives them unspoken permission to farm their kids out “so long as they, the parents, maintain overall operational authority in picking the right farm.” Sure. Self-delusion, as with all things “self,” always devolves to error.
The major contention, however, comes in verses 8 and 9. Here, parents are told to teach so that families (again, figuratively) are to “bind His lessons as a sign on their hands and as frontlets between the eyes, and to write them on the posts and gates of the house.” To repeat, this is figurative language only. Why? First, because the English word “frontlet” (a headband or ornament) is an entirely inadequate translation of the related Hebrew word meaning “to keep something foremost in one’s mind,” or “to keep one’s eye diligently on the goal or target.” Literal headbands were never God’s intention. We know this because nowhere in either Testament does God command us to wear on our heads and left arms the leather, Bible-verse-containing phylacteries or “tefillin.” This entirely Pharisaical and Talmudic-oriented ritual was a man-, not God-devised act of pride, disobedience and attention-getting religious overkill. (The same goes for literal writing on door posts.) It violates, among other things, the second commandment against graven images. Christ himself in Matt. 23:5 speaks tersely against the practice.
To attain a worldview-advancing integration of spiritual wisdom, knowledge, fear of God and academics, God never implied that precious Christian seedlings could possibly be disciplined His way in any venue other than the one He provides at home. And try as some might, it can’t be honestly inferred either, especially from Deuteronomy 6.