Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Bible and home education

I made a somewhat rash statement yesterday, to the effect that I thought that religion would not be a major factor in the decision to home educate, at least not in this country. Of course, there are those who home educate for this reason. I have to say that my decision to teach my own child was not primarily motivated by this consideration, but it was certainly an important pointer to me that I was on the right track. I wonder if there is anybody else here for whom this was taken into account?

I suppose that two important injunctions have always been to the forefront of my mind. The first is Proverbs 22 verse 6; Raise up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it even in old age. Secondly, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I believe that the family and not the individual is the basic unit of society. I also believe that the Lord instituted this plan. Which, I am bound to confess, makes my stand on new legislation a little tricky. After all, if as I truly believe home education is sanctioned by scripture, why should I want the essentially secular state to concern itself in the matter?

I would probably have home educated even if the law had been against me. The reason for this is plain; I believe that the family is sacred and that it is where children learn everything worth knowing. I think that anything that strikes at the institution of the family, strikes at the heart of society. I also believe of course, that I have a duty to teach my child about God and his commandments and that this duty to is best fulfilled by keeping her at home to teach her. Why then am I in favour of a change in the law which would allow the state to interfere in family life? Because it is what families do that make the family sacred. There are bad families and good families.

If I had decided to follow Jephthah's example, as related in Chapter 11 of Judges, then I would taken a wrong turn and it would be time for others to intervene and set things straight. For those unfamiliar with the story, Jepththah, although a God fearing man, vowed that if he won a battle then he would sacrifice the first living thing he saw when he returned home. This turned out to be his daughter and he duly offered her up as a burnt sacrifice. Personally, I think that it would have been a better thing if the other Gileadites had had a quiet word with him and told him he was doing wrong. (I hope that nobody from the DCSF reads this, otherwise they will be launching an enquiry in the possibility of home educating fathers offering up their children as burnt sacrifices!)

In other words, the family is very important to me, but I recognise that others might have a right to step in if, for instance, I decided to follow Jephthah's example and sacrifice my daughter. Even if I neglected her health or education, then I feel that others might also have a right to take notice. My child is a precious gift from God, but she does not belong to me to do with as I will. Society as a whole is concerned with her as well. It is in that context that I believe that society, as represented by the DCSF, has the right to be concerned about children.

As an aside, I never tire of telling people that there is no mention of school in the Bible. A brief mention of a schoolmaster in Galatians, but school, not at all! Another ringing endorsement of home education.

I would be curious to know if anybody else who reads this Blog has any view on this, particularly from a Biblical perspective. For those who do not home educate for this reason, I can only offer my apologies if I have sounded like some species of religious maniac here. But hey, didn't somebody talk recently about the great diversity of home education....


  1. Morning...just stuck dd2 on bus for college first day (she went to school, so she shouldn't be terrified, but she is). Incidentally have you seen the Times article today by Caitlin Moran? Funny, (and I totally symphathise with her parents about the socks - we have several baskets of odd ones, the other halves disappearing into some Bermuda Triangle somewhere) but I am not sure many parents reading it who have children in school will see the light!

    As to your post above.. well I am a Christian and I have home educated some of my children. I
    think I have interpeted my biblical understanding to be that I (in fact we) do have
    responsibility for welfare and education of our children at all times, but that we can delegate our duties to others if we choose. So many parents would hand over day to day teaching to others, in a school. In reality we had never even considered home education as a possibility for our eldest children; I only came into contact with that idea when I went to an interview for a job teaching the Taylor Brethren children about 11 years ago. I didn't get the job (too outspoken I suspect) but it did make me aware of the possibilities. Then when dd1 clearly couldn't cope with school it was an obvious solution, and we later took dd4 out too (different problems - we adopted him at age 11 - need I say more!)
    We dithered about the younger children after that point- we are fortunate that most of our children have been to independant schools and so we have had a lot more imput into what happens than many parents of children in the state sector. Don't like the reading books? send them back....don't approve of x, y or z.....and so on. The younger girls (who are/were at a Christian independent school) have always loved it there and although it isn't perfect it has never produced any problems that weren't solvable. Youngest son (now 16) is profoundly disabled and I have never considered for a minute home educating him - at school he gets 1:1 attention, there are 2 full time nurses in school and since he needs total care all the time (eg needs feeding) having him out of the house durings school hours frees me to actually get on and do other things..including home educating my eldest daughter.
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I do wish greatly that I had home educated my 3rd son (who would have done much better acedemically at home) although he is still doing pretty well out in the world of work, (works for a Chriatian book publisher) so school didn't do him any actual harm; and I wouldn't have sent any of the girls to school had we started HE earier. However I am also aware of the fact that during most of the last 22 years we were fostering (that is how we came to adopt) and we couldn't have done all that had we been home educating as well - for the last few years of fostering we had 10 children and we were fully stretched with that and home educating dd as well....
    Rambling now and I can't remember what my original point was...butI think I am trying too say that we saw home education as part of the task of providing the best nurturing environment for our children who clearly needed that extra imput but we didn't feel that it was a sort of biblical imperative for all Christian parents - taking responsibility is, but how you do it is open to debate. Never the less, faced with the state of most schools, and the demise of family life, I can't understand why more Christian parents don't consider it (well actually I do, but that's another debate!)

  2. Julie-we not christian and do not belive most of the churches are only after your money!

  3. Somebody wrote a mathematical treatise on the fact that it is impossible to find a matched pair of socks, when once you have jumbles them into a draw. there are worse things in life than wearing odd socks. I didn't mean to imply that home education was a biblical command and that Christians who failed to do it were slackers and apostates! Rather that there is scriptural backing for the practice. I wonder if you have read a book called "Children in the Heart of God" by Dave Gidney? Although not about home education, he traces the family structure of ancient Israel and shows the importance of the family from a religious viewpoint. I have to say that one reason that I did not want my daughter to attend school was because there is a definite secular slant to everything, even Religious Studies. The various religions are taught as though they are quaint customs and it is quite possible to go for a month without actually mentioning God at all in the subject. This is done by simply focusing on the practice of religion, rather than the underlying beliefs.

    And don't even get me started on the pernicius doctrine of moral relativism which pervades the whole school system today.

  4. BTW - not sure you can draw anything too much from statistics. but I noticed that the number of members on the main Evangelical email list is around 700, there is around 1100 on HEUK I think and around 2000 on the EO list? Not sure what that proves as some people are on all three lists - there are two EO trustess for example - and me! Yet given that there is overlap - and that quite a lot of the Christian community and the Taylor Brethren aren't using computers - means that Christians aren't an insignficant proportion of the internet community. The bigger question though is - where are the rest of the home ed community - if there really are 20000 plus families?

  5. I have a suspicion that a lot of home educating parents are just too busy teaching their children to spend much time emailing the HE-UK and EO lists. I have remarked before that for some parents emailing seems to be almost a fulltime job in itself, especially those who also swamp the comments sections of online newspapers.

    One of the most interesting aspects of any new law will be seeing at last just how many home educated children there are in the country. It would also be fascinating to know how many had never been sent to school, how many withdrawn and for what reasons. I would guess that most Chritians who are home educating for religious reasons are already known to the authorities. In Essex, where we live, the home educating Christian groups are known to the LA and are very popular with those whose job it is to visit them. The children tend by all accounts to be very polite and well behaved and there is no shortage of written work to examine. (Even if a lot is of the ACE variety).

    I read the piece in the Times today, but did not find it a brilliant recommendation for HE. As it happened the writier and her siblings turned out OK; others might not have done.

  6. Gordon Brown has admitted for the first time that spending cuts will be needed, in a speech to union leaders.
    just what i wanted to hear this will help block uncle Badman/Ed Balls DCSF lack of money to put his crazy idea into practice.See the councils LEA will be looking to save money and Badman silly ideas will cost far to much can you just think how much it would cost? what a stoke of luck the country is so short of money!

  7. Simom-Visits you on about them again? visiting chrisian children? one of the question there should ask the LEA is how much do you get paid?i have always found this question goes down very well and you then find you never hear again from them! I wonder why? same if you ask a teacher how much you geting paid some go all red when you ask and go all shy. there also do not like it when you point out that it is the tax payer who pays them!

    No visits here or meeting or any of that rubbish here gone very shy have Hampshire county council i wonder why? we have to follow it up see if uncle jack Cawthra is still about or Jim?(he not dead) but god knows what he does all day i see if we can find out.Yes i do enjoy all of these chats! its raining outside but it good to know we can keep in touch!

  8. "I have a suspicion that a lot of home educating parents are just too busy teaching their children to spend much time emailing the HE-UK and EO lists" - how true- I am only around more because technically dd will be a full time student in college from this week - but I expect her 12 hours in college will need the same hours in support at home - so I may disappear again soon!
    Home ed has always been a serious and time consuming business here!

    "I would guess that most Christians who are home educating for religious reasons are already known to the authorities."- actually not sure about that - I do know quite a few such families who have never had contact with the LA...again, the whole lack of real stats makes it difficult to be sure what is going on; if we do get compulsory registration that at least will make it more clear.

  9. I am in a similar position at the moment, in that my daughter has now started college. This gives me a little more time for emailing, but I don't think that it will last. I am certainly not posting at 3.30 AM the way some people seem to!

  10. Is college living up to her expectations? One of my middle daughters schooled friends lasted 3 days last week - changed college and the courses from A levels to hairdressing!! ( I am not saying that we don't need hairdressers, but a bit of drastic change!)

  11. "And don't even get me started on the pernicius doctrine of moral relativism which pervades the whole school system today."

    How true - and as for standards..see

    apparently the 5th member of staff to find himself in the same position!

  12. "I am certainly not posting at 3.30 AM the way some people seem to!"

    So of us have to stay up late to carry out medical treatment on our children. TVs not so good at that time of night and you can only read so many books.

  13. Or even 'Some of us'!

  14. Sharon, I hope you don't think that I was having a dig at you when I mentioned people posting at 3.30 AM? I have not seen anybody doing that here, I don't think that my Blog is likely to hold anybody's attention at that time of night!

  15. Yes, I saw the case of that staff member Julie. It absolutely defies the imagination. Do these people really not know right from wrong?

  16. In my first teaching job, some 30+ years ago I taught at a fairly well known mixed boarding school. During my first year there was all sorts of rumours going around about one teacher and a sixth former, but despite the evidence the school did nothing. Then it emerged that they had actually got married in the school holiday (the girl was from overseas and in fact was old enough to do so) but when that news broke the teacher was sackd and the girl expelled. Terribly hypocritical...it was considered "fine" whilst there was no concrete evidence of a relationship - but once they married,they were out the door. Weird world....

  17. Of course Chris Woodhead had similar difficulties in his younger days. there was some doubt as to whether he embarked upon a relationshiop with a seventeen year old girl before or after she had left the sixth form. It is now, thankfully, illegal as well as disciplinary matter.

  18. "Sharon, I hope you don't think that I was having a dig at you when I mentioned people posting at 3.30 AM?"

    Not at all, just felt like explaining my presence at that time of night, LOL.

    "I have not seen anybody doing that here"

    I think I've probably posted at around that time, it's a pain to be sure because the time stamp on messages is 8 hours out. I'm posting this at 00:12 on the 16th Sept according to my computer clock.

    "I don't think that my Blog is likely to hold anybody's attention at that time of night!"

    I tend to zombie in front of the computer if I need to stay up that late (bit late for musical instruments!). I'm often too tired to concentrate on a book or to study by then but short articles and emails are fine.

  19. Sharon, you are quite right about the eight hour time difference, which is not a thing that I have noticed before. I suppose that that means that the Blog is operating according to California time, originates in Silicon Valley, I guess.