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.

No comments: