It needs more than ever to be stressed that the best and truest educators are parents under God. The greatest school is the family … The moral training of the child, the discipline of good habits, is an inheritance from the parents to the child which surpasses all others. The family is the first and basic school of man.
Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul … And ye shall teach them your children. Deut. 11:18–19
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6
God has commanded us to teach our children; but how many Christians are obeying that commandment?
There is always some teaching going on that we can’t control. Movies, television, and music videos teach. The daily news teaches. What does a child learn when he sees movie stars lionizing a convicted murderer? A disgraced public figure making a fortune on his tell-all book? Towns and cities holding parades to celebrate behavior that the Bible calls abomination? It’s hard, if not impossible, to shield children from these “lessons.”
But we can control where our children go for their formal education. In recent years, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Americans sent almost 49 million children to the public schools. At the same time, slightly more than 5 million children went to private schools — 46% of them to Roman Catholic, 15% to “Conservative Christian” schools, and 18% to nonsectarian private schools — a ratio of almost 10-1.
We’re most interested in homeschooling, but the Department of Education’s recent figures for homeschooling are only an estimate: “about 1.1 million, or 2% of all students” getting their education at home. The Home School Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org) says the real figure is closer to 2 million. Either way, the total is miniscule compared to the number of children in public schools.
What Does the Bible Say?
“The Bible teaches clearly that parents bear the first and most fundamental responsibility for the education of their children,” writes Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler. “Informed Christian parents may partner with others in this great task, but this parental responsibility cannot be given to others as a franchise.”
In Old Testament times there was no public education. The closest thing to it was the schools for the training of scribes in ancient Sumeria, circa 2000 B.C. It was around this time that God commanded Abraham to leave his home in Sumeria (Gen. 11:28, 12:4) — “Ur of the Chaldees” was a Sumerian city — and move to Canaan, where he and his people followed a nomadic way of life hardly conducive to a scribal education.
Abraham’s great-grandson, Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt, became the steward of his master’s household and rose to the high position of administrator of the entire kingdom. Obviously Joseph must have been a literate, well-educated man. Who taught him? It could only have been his father, Jacob — who would have been educated by his father, Isaac, the son of Abraham.
Today it’s hard for some people to see a connection between the Bible and a modern education involving science, computers, “social studies,” foreign languages, etc. Life in Biblical times was so much simpler. People herded goats or operated small farms. They didn’t need to learn the complex skills necessary to qualify for a good job in today’s world.
As some see it, the Bible is fine as a source of moral and religious instruction, but has nothing to say about being a software designer, a car salesman, a plumber, or a paralegal. For that, children need “a real education” at “a real school.” There is a disconnect between one’s supposedly private, personal religion and the mundane (but sometimes challenging) business of everyday life.
But the Bible doesn’t see it that way.
Consider a few of many verses the Bible devotes to the subject of teaching.
For I know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD. Gen. 18:19
How would Abraham’s children know how to keep the way of the Lord, unless Abraham taught them?
And thou shalt teach them [God’s Words] diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deut. 6:7
By “thou” the Bible means you, personally. You are to teach your children God’s Words. This is a commandment and a duty.
My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart … When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life. Prov. 6:20–23
The lamp is not to be put out, nor the way of life set aside, the moment a child opens an arithmetic textbook or an adult enters a supermarket. Every activity, even the most mundane, is to be illuminated and informed by an awareness of God and His will. Here we see clearly that God does not recognize any disconnect between Himself and any part of His creation. We, and our lives, are part of that creation.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Col. 2:8
Teaching that is not Christ-centered, that indeed denies that Christ has any relevance to the subject matter, will only deceive the student. Who can deny that this description applies to all the instruction offered in the secular, government schools?
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Tim. 3:16–17
Who is going to do this furnishing? Who better than a child’s own parents to give him this grounding in the Scriptures? When Paul wrote his Epistle to Timothy, there were no public schools. Christian parents had to teach.
A Christ-Centered Education
“A Christian concept of education is rooted ultimately in the revelation of God and the belief that God’s Word is real truth, true truth, and eternal truth,” Albert Mohler writes.
As a founder of the Christian education movement, R.J. Rushdoony was already proclaiming this truth decades ago. As he put it in 1973,
“[T]he parents have a duty to provide the child with a godly education … Wisdom rests on faith, and true knowledge has as its presupposition the sovereign God. There can be no neutrality in education. Education by the state will have statist ends. Education by the church will be geared to promoting the church.”
And in 1999,“The two key areas which manifest the religion of a culture are education and law. If these are not governed by the faith of the people, then the professions of faith, Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant, are nominal and the actual functioning faith is something else, at present, humanism.”
This is the answer to those who hold out for the argument that as long as the parents teach religion and morality, “the other stuff” can be left safely to the public schools. We are not saying that the Bible can teach a child how to speak French or perform data entry. The point is that if all teaching is integrated under the presumption of Christ’s Lordship over all things, the child will not grow up believing that history happens apart from God, that he can carry on his business or public or private life apart from God, or that any aspect of reality, from literature to biology, can be understood apart from God.
In these articles, we will argue that homeschooling is the best possible means of achieving this godly view of life and that public schooling is the worst. We shall try to dispel parents’ fears that they are somehow not qualified to educate their children and break down the wall of denial that continues to shelter the public schools from public outrage.
Lee Duigon is a Christian free-lance writer and contributing editor for the Chalcedon Report. He has been a newspaper editor and reporter and a published novelist.