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Much literature on Christian child training correctly emphasizes "self-control", one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galations chapter 5. Self-control and self-discipline are Godly traits leading to the self-governed man who obeys God's Word in all he does, forsaking his own lusts. We may, however, make an error in emphasizing self-control as the first and primary thing we demand of young children. Consider II Peter 1, 5-8:
II Peter 1:5
6. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
7. and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
8. and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
9. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice that these verses describe a progression of qualities. In this progression, self-control comes after (1) faith, (2) diligence, (3) moral excellence, and (4) knowledge. Thus, we must first build faith as we teach even the youngest children by example in reading the Bible, praying, and seeking God. Then we demonstrate moral excellence in our lives and training children likewise. Next, we must add knowledge concerning the Scriptures and how they apply to life. Now we are ready for self-control!
When we consider the various drives and talents our living God puts within us as His creation, we always look for His purpose. For example, when we consider certain personality types, we ask God for His plan for each life. One very apparent part of the nature of many is the trait of competitiveness. All of us have it to some degree. We might also call this 'fight'. Strong willed competitiveness and 'fight' can be used to overcome many obstacles put in our path by the enemy. I believe that God wants us to channel competitiveness into the spiritual fight against satan and the powers of darkness. When we channel all competitive 'fight' in children in to man-made conflicts like sports, are we mis-using what God has provided for victories in His Kingdom?
With the recent high profile chess match between Gary Kasparov and the IBM "Deep Blue" supercomputer, there was much discussion of whether computers can "think" or be "intelligent". Many commentators correctly pointed out that the match was not really "man vs. machine", but one man (Kasparov) versus a team of men and the machine they built! The machine, is, of course, the product of God given human intelligence.
We do have one warning for Christian home educators which is an important lesson for all children to understand. We are concerned that since a computer has been built and programmed to play chess equal to or better than a man, there will be talk of all sorts of other tasks which computers can perform. The dangerous application will be to the social sciences (e.g. economic models, educational methods, predictions of over-population etc.).
We must realize how much work and how powerful a machine is being used simply to play a very straightforward game like chess. While the strategy of chess is complex, the rules are simple. There are only 6 different kinds of pieces. The sum of all rules can be written in a couple pages. Social science applications involve a myriad of factors with complex interactions, not 6 kinds of pieces with precisely defined moves! Books are required to describe the factors involved. Computers can perform repetitive work very quickly and accurately. They cannot create the logic of complex interactions. Even in areas with more precise inputs and factors than social sciences, such as weather, computer models are extremely limited. Weather forecasts are often in serious error more than 24-36 hours in advance. Long range predictions, such as global warming, have never been more accurate than throwing dice. The local Christian meteorologist in our area pointed out research which showed that January 1997 was the coldest month since satellite measurements were started 17 years ago in spite of computer predictions of steady warming.
We have faced problems of revisionist history over the years as various interest groups have sought to re-write history to their own benefit. We have observed comments on this subject from a former time period in G.A. Henty's book on the days of Wallace and Bruce (1300's Scottish history). In it, the author, who wrote in the 1800's, accuses English historians of corrupting history by attributing atrocities and foul behavior to Wallace and Bruce when the facts speak otherwise - it was King Edward of England who was guilty of brutal behavior towards the Scots and their families. As we discussed the problem of revisionist history as a phenomena not unique to our times, Diane noted that it began very early - in the garden when Satan revised the truth by telling Eve, "Indeed, has God said ... you surely will not die!" The root problem is still the same.
We have also observed that there are Christian authors who are desperate to prove American forefathers were Christian. True history reveals that some were and some were not. Be very careful of anyone who wishes to reinterpret the facts to fit their preconceived theory. There is only one person who knows the truth of the past, present, and the future. Jesus said, "I will send you the Comforter who will guide you into all truth." As the wheat and tares continue to grow beside each other, it is the way of wisdom to be very discerning whenever you read history or watch mini-docudramas. Much of what we see and hear is just not the way it was!
We have taught Christian home educators to beware of "classical" education where classical entails an emphasis on Green and Roman literature rather than truth. We are concerned that we err in God's sight when we teach ancient anti-Christian religion and philosophies and lift up pagans as examples of learned men, when in fact the Greeks and Romans were very wrong about many things. Many were perverts. Earl recently saw a striking example of the problems which may come from mixing classical learning with Christianity.
In the book, James I, the Fool as King by Otto Scott, we learn that King James was educated in part by the George Buchanan who was a courageous Reformer, one who had survived a trial by the Inquisition, and one of the first to identify the relationship of the Christian faith to political freedoms. Buchanan was, however, best known as a Latinist. Reformers like John Knox had great expectations of James as a defender of the Reform. These expectations were smashed by the behavior of James, first as king of Scotland, and then as king of England and Scotland. A clue as to where things went wrong comes in a description of a book James wrote (for he was very learned and wrote much!):
The Trew Law , designed for general distribution, was written in simple language, without the wealth of elaborate scholarship that James was adding to Doron . It cited, in bald terms, the James Stuart theory that "Kings are called gods" and were to be considered "loving fathers" to their nations. Heavy with Old Testament documentation, James argued that subjects owed total, complete and abject obedience to their sovereigns and could resist only with their tears, if they proved unjust. Kings were made by God. James believed that a king, to his subjects, should be like God.
This theory, which distorted the theology of the ancient Hebrew and Christians alike, though qualified by careful phrasing, was a denial of every principle Buchanan had sought to inculcate into his pupil years before. It was an argument against the Reform and all its political consequences, a twisting of history, and a throwback to pagan ideas about emperor-gods, which James had apparently absorbed in his classical Latin and Greek studies (emphasis ours)
James was a wicked king, a self-indulgent pervert who truly believed in himself as the true head of the church. Would a thoroughly Biblical Christian education have made a difference? Might God have given James a mind capable of great learning for His purpose to lead people to Himself if the Bible has a foundational and central role in his education?
One other vestige of classical education which remains with us is the selection of literature used in instruction in Latin. To this day, Latin instruction includes readings from Ceasar, Virgil, and Ovid. If this curriculum were invented in 1990s America, we could understand this focus on pagan Rome. However, this curriculum choice comes from 200 years ago. The problem is that Christian educators of past eras chose to subject their students (like King James) to Greek and Roman authors instead of the church fathers!
As an extension of the previous article on the classics, we continue to see the lure of academic respectability and conformity taking precedence over the search for God's will and plan for education. This is most problematic at the college level. The worst example to date is reported in World magazine in the May 17/24, 1997 issue. An article entitled, "Class Dismissed" reports the story of a student at Bethel College and her and her family's struggle to deal with vulgar language in the classroom and the use of pornography in classes. The college's defense claimed a professor "did not use the language as swearing, but was, nevertheless using the offensive words gratuitously." This is academic double-talk. The college defended the pornography by citing non-Christian movie critics.
We would not have believed this article were it not for our own experience in dealing with a Christian college. While our experience contains nothing even close to the flaunting of sin as reported at Bethel, we have heard similar defenses of anti-Christian instruction. Our eldest son wrote an editorial in the school newspaper challenging instruction which had, for example, a very heavy emphasis on Sigmund Freud even while acknowledging him as an errant, sinful man. His question was, "Why do we learn his theories at face value?"
We can all fall into the trap of respecting learning and scholarship more than God's Truth. We draw two key lessons out of this subject:
Subject areas may have some breaks with the anti-Christian culture, like the teaching of creation versus evolution at some, certainly not all or even most, Christian colleges. Some subject areas, such as social work or education contain virtually no differences in content and philosophy from their non-Christian peers.
In continuing with the above themes, another source of anti-Christian thought which has traditionally been a part of a classical, liberal arts education, is philosophy. Remember that the goal of American colleges has traditionally been to impart a worldview by using a wide range of liberal arts courses. For many Christian home schooling families, this means that college presents a serious dilemma. On the one hand, students need some advanced skills and/or degrees to pursue certain careers and on the other hand, families have spent years developing a Christian worldview and do not want to pay money to learn an anti-Christian view (or at strongly evangelical Christian colleges, a very mixed worldview).
Philosophy courses often play an important part in developing worldview (along with literature, environmentalism, psychology, and history). In philosophy, students study ancient and not so ancient pagan thinkers. It is amazing that even some Christian colleges universally consider Aristotle worth more than a cursory glance. Most of the ancient Greeks were pagans, perverts, and wrong about everything important. Many of us know the famous error disproved by Galileo concerning the speed at which objects fall. However, Aristotle had stranger ideas. He taught that women were not quite human (nor were slaves).
Tragically, most college courses omit great Christian thinkers of the past and our modern age.
On the positive side, Christian home educators can include Christian philosophers in their curriculum. This study can include theory (e.g. Derek Prince, Richard Wurmbrand, Rousas Rushdooney, Francis Schaeffer, Luther, Calvin, Wesley) and practical applications. Early American thinkers (Daniel Webster, Jonathan Edwards, William Bradford etc.) provide excellent training in Christian philosophy. We have found that reading materials from the Voice of the Martyrs teaches deep Christian principles and philosophies as we read how modern Christians stand up to the onslaught of those wishing to stamp out the faith.
This section describes a few ideas for "surviving" college. Each student needs to seek God for His strategy for how much interaction to have with the college, its students, activities, and faculty. Different situations and different personalities call for highly customized strategies!
In our day of movie theatres with 15 screens, mega video stores on every corner, 10s or 100s of channels of cable TV, new sports palaces (they used to be called stadiums) arising in every city, plus newspapers and magazines to talk about the others, entertainment can become the constant companion of any who choose her. Fully 50% of a major national newspaper ( USA Today ) is devoted to entertainment (25% in the sports section, 25% in the so-called "Life" section which covers TV and movies).
The Proverbs give us some guidance with regard to this most available companion. First, the Proverbs lead us to consider entertainment as a fool. For example, Proverbs 14 :9 says, "Fools mock at sin." Surely this is common in TV and movies. Proverbs 13 :19 adds, "...it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil." Truly, the entertainment industries find it hard to depart from evil! Proverbs 15 :7 says, "The lips of the wise spread knowledge, But the hearts of fools are not so." The average sitcom or movie certainly does not spread knowledge, at least not the kind which leads to a fear of the Lord. Proverbs 23 :9 says, "Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words." If we try to speak wisdom in the face of the lust of TV and movies or the fanaticism of spectator sports, surely, "he" will despise our wisdom! Proverbs 14 :14 says, "The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on folly." TV, movies, and sports certainly do not seek knowledge, but instead feed on constant folly. As I read Proverbs 12 :23, "...the heart of fools proclaims folly," I recall seeing movies playing on the screen on long overnight airplane trips. I did not have the sound and saw parts of movies as they stared at me from the screen. I recall many a time when it seemed that those on the screen did nothing but jump, scream, rant, rave and generally act like a very foolish 2 year old!
Now what should we do with such a foolish companion? The Bible warns us in Proverbs 13 :20. He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm. We do well to choose new companions, those who are wise. How do we find and identify the wise? Proverbs 11 :30 says, "..he who is wise wins souls;" Proverbs 12 :18 says, "...the tongue of the wise brings healing;" Proverbs 12 :15 says, "...a wise man is he who listens to counsel;" Proverbs 14 :1 says, "The wise women builds her house;" Proverbs 14 :16 says, "A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil." Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit as an indwelling companion and we read in John 16 :13. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth." Thus the Bible tells us how to choose a more worthy companion than entertainment - God Himself!
On Tuesday, June 6, 1997, the Wall Street Journal had an article entitled, "Homework Becomes a Critical Assignment For Moms and Dads." The article describes a new trend in education - pressure on parents to participate in their children's education. Research scientist Joyce Epstein is quoted as saying that most parents know so little about their children's classwork that "they can't even ask questions about it." (We believe this statement because it explains why parents have allowed schools to expand immoral and anti-Christ political education at the expense of reading and other skills). The article describes the stresses placed upon families who don't have time for this new intrusion or lament that a teacher is determining their family life (our experience when our eldest son was in school in the early grades).
The article points out that since 40% of American fourth graders cannot pass the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (a much simpler test than the Stanford, Iowa and California tests), government money is being earmarked for parent programs. And yet the educators try to tell home educators that parents are not capable of teaching their children!
At its worst, what we see in this trend of encouraging, or demanding, Schools use the day with various forms of moral, religious, and political education (e.g. self-esteem, stress management, sex education, drug education, AIDS education, revisionist history, evolution, environmentalism etc.) This meets the objectives of anti-Christ, humanistic educational theorists; however, it causes complaints by parents, industry, and others because children are not learning basic skills and failing miserably compared to earlier generations and children in other nations. They now see a assign the parents to teach the academics to improve results while still using the school day for the all-important "religious" training!
Now, we know that many teachers are certainly motivated by higher purposes than suggested by the cynicism of the prior paragraph. However, our experience in dealing with educational bureaucrats and educators leading political pressure for more money and Goals 2000 suggests that our cynicism may be all too close to the truth.
The good news is that even public school educators are being forced to recognize the value of the family. :note. The June 9, 1997 edition of The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on home education by economist Mark Brandly. The article starts from the story of Rebecca Sealfon, a home educated student who won the national spelling bee. The article discusses the onerous regulations on home educators which apply in many states and argues that such regulation is unnecessary and serves no other purpose than to "deter and hamstring parents." The conclusion? "These legal restrictions - not lack of demand - prevent the further development of more diverse educational services..." and finally, "Deregulating home schools would produce many more excellent students."
J. A. Rodd 6044 Pine Creek St. NW North Canton, OH 44720 phone (330) 305-9318 voicemail (216) 664-7099 [email protected]
Some Initial Comments and Reflections on Households with Homeschooled Young Adults; Upcoming Topics if the following comments are unhelpful and/or superfluous, please let me know. If they whet your appetite for more, please reply by informing us what topics you would most like to see addressed in more detail in this section of subsequent FHC letters. If it is convenient, please respond by phone; evenings are preferred, but we do want to hear from you.]
First of all, it is highly unlikely that families will successfully conquer the young adult years without a mutual commitment to God and a healthy amount of common sense and biblical wisdom. [As an aside, it must be pointed out that the Bible is remarkably full of common sense; there is more common sense to be found in the Bible than in any scholarly, academic or cultural texts.] Both children and parents must view themselves and each other as children of God, subject to His rule and authority over both their own lives and their relationships (outside and inside the family).
With commitment to God and each other come regular habits--such as communicating meaningful and important individual experiences and life goals, living a disciplined life, and praying for one another in a regular and meaningful manner. I would submit that without these elements, successfully running a house with independent, active young adults will be quite difficult, if not impossible to do.
It may be suprising to many parents of toddlers, but expecting and requiring obedience--at least, of the obvious, foundational sort--becomes more important, not less, as your children get older. This is essential to recognize. The worldly model dictates that as children age they should become "independent" in the sense of being irrationally self-willed, unreasonably unsubmissive, and thoughtlessly selfish. While the biblical model also emphasizes growth toward maturity and "independence," the biblical model of "independence" is characterized by wisdom, maturity, and self-sacrifice, "submitting one to another" in accordance with the commands of the New Testament. Consequently, obedience becomes easier and easier as godly children grow older and more mature in their faith. Obedience in standard, obvious, lifestyle issues should be a minor issue. The basics of living the Christian life--which is the kind of obedience that should be required--become easier, not more difficult, as we mature. The everyday practicalities of living a mature life should similarly become a "snap," consuming a minimum of time and brainpower.
Unfortunately for young adult homeschooled children, parents' weaknesses, immaturities, and simple disobedience to biblical principles, are unavoidable. And, parents may be somewhat more unwilling to take advice from their children, with whom they live day in and day out, than they would be to take it from some stranger or outside "authority." Consequently, genuine advice or concern from young adult children can be taken as a personal affront or blow, with the resultant problematic responses being obvious. I often reflect to myself that one of the greatest regrets homeschooling parents will have after their young adults are grown with families of their own will be not listening to their young adult children while they were still around. This is truly an unfortunate situation.
At this point, it should be clear how important it is for there to be a mutual commitment to godliness, wisdom, and common sense; and a biblical understanding of not only how relationships are to function, but that said relationships require mutual honor and respect, vibrant individual relationships with God, and an overriding mutual vision for why we are on the earth and what we are to be doing here. Clearly, immaturity and disobedience to scriptural principles are dangers on both sides, and the only solution lies in mutual obedience to these principles s empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Managing the transition from child to young adult; trusting God for a spouse.