Monday, June 29, 2009

Home Education Defined--Isaac Taylor, 1838

Most Christians are under the deep impression that homeschooling was universally accepted until the late 1800s. Although such a broad-sweeping affirmation cannot be conclusively proven (nor unproven), it can be examined one era at a time. One such approach would be to examine the books of the early and mid 1800s which stressed "fireside education"--that renewed emphasis on family life.

One such book was written by Isaac Taylor, "Home Education".

The following is from the opening chapter of the 1838 edition:

"I am not about to compare public and private education as if intending to disparage the one, that the other, which is my chosen subject, may appear to the greater advantage...The reader would have good reason to distrust the judgment of a writer who, for the purpose of enhancing the importance of the particular task he has undertaken, should speak of Home Education as if it were abstractedly and universally preferable to the opposite system; or should affirm that it might be adopted by the generality of families: the contrary of both suppositions I fully admit."

"Having thus precluded a probable misunderstanding of my intention, I may with equal explicitness, profess the belief, first, that Home Education, if the principles and methods proper to it are well understood, is both practicable and preferable in more instances than has often been supposed..."

Such up-front nuance is a breath of fresh air in comparison to some contemporary rhetoric. The author continues with the all important necessity of definition:

"I ought to premise that the phrase, Home Education, is not, in my view, to be strictly confined to the training of the children of a single family, under the paternal roof; but may embrace any instances in which the number assembled for instruction is not greater than may well consist with the enjoyments, the intimacy, the usages, and the harmony that ought to attach to a family."

Although, he is more in favor of small group learning--a theme most Christians are in favor of today--he never assumes or asserts an all or nothing position. He does not endorse homeschooling as conceived in some modern circles. In fact, he does not endorse homeschooling as many people would recognize it today--who would name a school with a small class 'homeschooling'?

No, his concern is not about the method per se but about the atmosphere--a familial milieu of love. Something many Christians can agree upon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Swift Kick in the Pants

One of the perennial temptations for parents is to farm out their responsibilities for their children. I did not say delegate; I do not mean letting others help, direct or instruct their children. A parent can do that and still retain their responsibility in the matter.

No. I mean actually abdicating their responsibility. For example, when junior is failing at school, the parents blame the tutor. Or junior. When, in this instance, one key problem could be the total lack of involvement from mom and dad. They are so busy through-out the week--tennis, bible study, over-time, vet, house-hold chores--neither parent bothered to organize their time to sit down and find out how junior was progressing intellectually and spiritually: was junior disciplined with his own time? or did his mind wander? was his attitude about math good, bad or indifferent? Perhaps he has unrepentant sin that is distracting him?

The parents probably thought they were delegating their schooling when it actually became an excuse to put their kids out of the way of their own pleasures. Or the parents were too myopic. Or even lazy.

In such cases, the parents need a swift kick in the pants.

More families are realizing the importance of their duty before God: to train their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are getting their collective pants kicked by faithful teaching and preaching of the Word. More churches are realizing that they were demanding too much time and energy from families. Something many Reformed churches have realized for centuries.

But God not only uses church officers to call his families to faithfulness, at times he also uses friends, and Christian teachers and even homeschooling.

Homeschooling has been a swift kick in the pants for many a family. And that is a good thing. Forced to be intimately involved with junior's education--his ABCs & 123s--many quickly learn that education is more than mere intellectualism.

Junior has a lazy attitude. He disdains learning. He cheats on tests. Mom and Dad are beginning to realize that when they let junior keep his room a mess, he keeps his education a mess too. The importance of character comes to the fore. The character of not only junior but the attitudes and expectations of the parents. Disdaining Sunday worship. Watching TV all day. And chronically skipping family worship. Such parental slips add up.

And they influence junior.

Homeschooling for a number of families creates physical closeness that may help facilitate a familial closeness. Mixing homeschooling with strong parental willingness, wisdom and Spirit-wrought effort is a powerful combination. But it is only lasting if the Gospel cements the family together. Knowledge of that Gospel which wrought the Reformation is a must.

God uses many methods to point his children toward their responsibilities. Some subtle and kind and others more direct and blunt. We prefer the former but usually need the latter. And homeschooling can provide that swift kick in the pants.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Calvinism, History & Homeschooling

Many homeschoolers--like many conservative Evangelicals--imbibe on the glories of yesteryear: when Christianity dominated early America. In fact, it is not uncommon that homeschoolers pride themselves as a continuation of that past generation.

But what if what you know about that past generation was wrong? Would that make you think twice about cause and effect--that the cause of what we deem a successful Christian past was anchored in a specific form of Christianity and not some generic, vague and amorphous Deism that many Americans believe today?


1. The founders of the three main settlements, Jamestown, Plymouth and Massachusetts, were creedal Calvinists.
2. The Huguenot settlers in the South, the German Reformed of the middle colonies and the Dutch of New York were all Calvinists.
3. In 1780, the number of Calvinist churches (of one stripe or another) in America ranged from 60-80% (Religion and the American Experiment, Witte, 120)
4. The most popular school book for 100 years, The New England Primer, was Calvinistic!
5. Many state legislatures (and the national body) called for days of fasting and prayer in the Calvinistic language of Providence:

“…it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him;… Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God's superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely...on his aid and direction and…through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies; and by inclining their hearts to justice and benevolence…” Continental Congress, March, 1776.

And not only were the general contours of American life Calvinistic, many of the little known and well-known leaders were or were raised Calvinists: Patrick Henry, John Jay, John Witherspoon, Roger Sherman and Noah Webster.

Yes, that dictionary on your shelf was written by a Calvinist.

Even the political resistance theory was greatly influenced by Calvinism. John Adams bluntly acknowledges the wide-spread influences of both the French-Calvinist’s work Vindicus Contra Tyrannus and the English Calvinist work of Ponet (A Shorte Treatise of Politike Power), both which defended the right of the people to rise against tyrants.

Much of our political, social and economic freedoms hail from Calvinism.

But why? Is there something deeper to Calvinism than a system of thought that spawned the early Modern Era?

Yes. It is the Gospel.

Ask yourself, Is it coincidence that Luther, Calvin, Tyndale & the Puritans all believed in the Five Points of Calvinism? In TULIP--Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints?

God the Spirit raised up Luther and Calvin and a hundred other pastors who taught that creeds and deeds must be rooted in the Five Solas--that the Bible alone teaches justification through faith alone by grace alone on account of Christ alone to the glory of God alone. And those Solas were carried to the four corners of Europe by the original Protestants of old and their public creeds: Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith, Anglican 39 Articles, Dutch, Swiss, Irish, Polish, Hungarian, French Huguenots, Congregational and Baptist--all with a Calvinistic creed in their origins.

What about those American revivals? Started among the Calvinists first. Whitefield and Edwards--Calvinists. Wesley came a bit later. The Second Great Awakening was started among the Calvinist--Congregationalist, Baptists and Presbyterians. Later on it was hijacked (25 year later!) by Finney and his free-will salvation.

Dear homeschooler: consider well this summary of historical facts. Do you want something greater for your family, your children and their children? for this nation?

You want to bring it back to the good old days don't you? I know I do.

Then learn the lesson of one of the most popular and well-respected Calvinists of the 1800s:

"I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross."

Charles Spurgeon
Sermons, p.88, 1858.


[Hungry for more truth? here for more detailed info or post. Hungry for what the Gospel really is, email me: pastor mathis at gmail dot com]

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Preparing for School, Dedication--Comenius

In his book, the School of Infancy, Comenius, the 17th century leading Reformed pedagogue, included dedication and prayer as proper preparation for young six-year-olds before they began formal schooling:

Chapter XII

"6...the present matter necessarily requires, that parents should in devout prayer again commend their children to God, begging Him to grant His blessing on their scholastic instruction, and to make out of them vessels of grace, nay, if it please His benignity, the instruments of His glory. So Hannah with prayer delivered her Samuel to Eli; so David delivered Solomon to the prophet Nathan; so the mother of John Huss, the Bohemian martyr, as she was taking him to school, occasionally during the journey, falling on her knees with him, poured out her prayers. And how God heard and blessed these prayers, all Christians know. For how can God thrust away from him what is dedicated to him with a full and warm heart, with prayers and tears ; first, in the womb, afterwards in faithful dedication, and now a third time ? It is impossible for Him not to receive so holy an offering."

"7. Therefore, the father or mother may use the following prayer: "Creator, Father, and most merciful Lord God, with profound humility, that Thou mayest be my God and the God of my offspring for ever. O the vast benignity and mercy conferred upon us who believe, that we, having been ransomed from mankind, have been made first-fruits to God and the Lamb! Do Thou therefore ratify and confirm this blessing in this the fruit of my womb, O most merciful God, that the child may be in the number of Thine elect, and receive a portion with Thy sanctified ones. And since I now deliver it, to obtain richer knowledge, to the director of youth, I pray Thee, add Thy blessing, that being instructed by the internal Leader, Thy Holy Spirit, it may learn more and more what pleaseth Thee, and walk in Thy commandments. Fear of Thee, O Lord, is the beginning of wisdom, therefore fill its heart with Thy fear, 0 holy God, and enlighten it with the light of knowledge according to Thy will; so that its advanced age, if Thou shouldst deem fit, may be glorious to Thee, useful to its neighbours, and salutary to itself. Hear me, most beloved Father, and fulfil the prayer of Thy servant, (or thine handmaid) for the sake of the intercession of our mediator Jesus Christ, who received little children when brought to Him, embraced them in His arms, imparting to them a kiss and benediction."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Preparing for School, Attitude--Comenius

Comenius was a leading pedagogue in Europe during the 1600s. Dubbed the "teacher of the nations," Comenius is considered the father of modern education (at least any good that he would claim) and promoted universal education (not to be confused with compulsory education). This two part series includes thoughtful ideas for preparing young children (around age six to seven) for any godly schooling. Part two includes dedication and prayer.

School of Infancy

Chapter XII.

How parents ought to prepare their children for school.

"Parents, therefore, ought not to hand over their children inconsiderately for instruction in the schools, but they themselves seriously reflect what is suitable to be done in this matter...

"2. Parents act imprudently, who, with no preparation, lead their children to schools as calves to market, or flocks to the herd. Afterwards the schoolmaster becomes harassed with them, and will punish them as he thinks fit...parents or domestics incautiously declaim in the presence of children respecting scholastic punishments and the severity of preceptors, and that they will no longer be allowed to play, and the like, by saying, "I will send you to school," "you shall be made gentle," "they will beat you with rods," "only wait a little," etc. By this means occasion is supplied them not for gentleness, but for greater ferocity, despair, and slavish fear towards parents and preceptors."

"3. Therefore prudent and pious parents, tutors and guardians, should act in this matter as follows: First, as the time for sending children to school draws near, they should endeavour to inspire them with pleasure...Their father or mother may also promise them a very beautiful dress, an elegant cap, a polished tablet, a book, and the like ; or they may occasionally shew those things which they have ready for them. They ought not, however, to give them until the proper time, but only promise that they will give them, so as to increase their desire more and more; saying to them, such words as these: " Come, my dear child, pray diligently that the time may soon come; be pious and obedient, etc."

"4. It will also be beneficial to tell them how excellent a thing it is to frequent schools and acquire learning, for such become great men,Provosts,Doctors, Preachers of the Divine word, Senators, &c.; all of them excellent men, celebrated, rich, and wise, whom the rest of mankind are necessarily bound to honour; likewise, that it is better and more becoming to attend school than to drone away in idleness at home, or run about the streets, or learn any grovelling habits, &c.; moreover, that learning is not labour, but that amusement with books and a pen, is sweeter than honey, and that of this amusement children may have a foretaste."

"5. Parents, moreover, should endeavour to incite in their children confidence and love towards their future preceptor, and this may be done in various ways; for instance, making mention of him as amiable, calling him father's friend, mother's friend, or good neighbour; and generally praising up his learning, wisdom, kindness, and benignity: that he is a distinguished man, knows many things, and yet is kind to children and loves them; and though it be true, that some are punished by him, yet that these are only such as are disobedient and wicked, and deserve to be punished by everybody ; but that he never chastises obedient children; besides which that he shews children every thing, how to write, how to say by heart, etc...the father or mother should send occasionally some little present to the schoolmaster by the child, either alone or with a servant, when the preceptor, if he is mindful of his duty, will speak kindly to the child, shewing him something he may not have seen before..."