deschooling, Education, Education and the Family, Unschooling

Family-Based Education: The role of the family in education

The following has been lifted from my PhD dissertation, and slightly edited for this blog site.  I continue to give thought to some of my earlier ideas, and welcome feedback as I continue to refine them.

In the book of Malachi, God indicated that a key purpose of marriage is “godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15[1]). For offspring to be godly, they must be trained to know God and to obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 6:1-9[2]). Raising godly offspring, therefore, is a significant goal of Biblical education, and the principle context for this goal is the trustee family. The trustee family is held by Rushdoony to be in contradistinction to both the atomistic family and the extended family. The atomistic family is, essentially, husband, wife and kids. The extended family includes husband, wife and kids, but also includes grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, uncles and an extended network of blood-related family members who are living.  The trustee family, on the other hand, takes into consideration the heritage and inheritance received from long generations past, and looks down history to many generations to come. The family holds in trust all that has been passed down, adds to that trust, then passes an enriched inheritance and heritage to children’s children to be passed on to their children’s children, and so forth (Rushdoony, 1983, pp. 201-206). This, therefore, provides the context for the commandment that God gave to the newly formed family in Genesis 1:26-28. Mankind, both male and female joined in marriage, is to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (by implication: with godly offspring). Godly offspring will then “subdue” and “have dominion” until such time that “the meek … shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5; c.f. Psalm 37:11). “God is not a man that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). He commanded us to pray that His kingdom come, and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10) until the time that His promise is fulfilled that says: “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Numbers 14:21, KJV). This shall be a day when multitudes of godly offspring, across the face of the whole earth, willingly live out the commandments of God, to the glory of His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the manifestation of His kingdom in time and on earth.

Sin introduced frustration to this dominion mandate. God cursed the ground and ordained thorns and thistles to frustrate man’s dominion efforts (Genesis 3:17-19[3]). Ungodly offspring are one of the outworkings of unatoned-for sin (Genesis 6:1-7[4]). David wrote: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). This does not imply that the act leading to conception is sinful, necessarily[5], but rather, sin resides in a person from the moment of conception, and ensures that all who are born are born sinners, needing a Saviour: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

It is the atonement of Jesus Christ worked out on the cross of Calvary that deals with the sinful nature. Paul writes: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). As the redeemed of God, we are to live as those who are dead to sin, but alive unto God, walking in newness of life, in Jesus Christ (Romans 6[6]).

Education does not make children of God. Education is not the Saviour/Messiah[7]. Giving new birth to children of God is the work of God’s regenerating Word and the Holy Spirit, according to the will of God (I Peter 1:3; I Peter 1:23; John 3:5; John 1:12-13[8]). However, a godly upbringing helps children to recognise the voice of the Lord when He speaks to them, and makes it easier for them to respond to the Holy Spirit when He calls them. It must be conceded, however, that in both the case of the child that is brought up in a godly way, and the child that is not brought up in such a way, it is a sovereign work of God’s grace that brings such a child to a place of salvation, not the upbringing.[9]

Willing obedience to Jesus’ commandments is the principle Biblical evidence of new birth (John 14:15; John 15:10; I John 2:3[10]). The evidence of love one for another (John 13:34-35; I John 4:7-12[11]) is qualified in the statement that love is expressed in the willing keeping of God’s Law: “…(by) this we know that we love the children of God, that we keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:2-3). Therefore, this is the fulfilment of the New Covenant promise made by God in Ezekiel when He said:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

The sanctifying work of Biblical education is to be conducted in the context of family and family life. Rushdoony (1973), in his book, The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume I, wrote a chapter called ‘Education and the Family’. In this chapter he outlines six aspects of family-based education, from a Biblical perspective. These aspects include chastisement; sound instruction (a godly education); an intensely practical education; the responsibility of parents and children to be productive, responsible family members; a consciousness of membership of a family; and godly learning (pp 182-185). These things are instilled by teaching and practically applying the Law-Word of God as the foundation of family-based education. Paul alluded to this kind of education when he wrote to Timothy:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (II Timothy 1:5).

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture[12] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (II Timothy 3:14-17).

The Christian home education movement takes these Scriptural injunctions seriously. Home educators seek to provide Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education for their children in the context of their homes. Some home educators simply try and replicate the structures of school, and administer schooling in the context of the home. These I would call ‘home schoolers’. Others, however, take seriously the passage in Deuteronomy that says:

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD the God of your fathers has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind then as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).

This is what I would call, life education / education in life/ education for life. Those who conduct education in this way I would call ‘unschoolers’. God places education in the context of family members together living life, with parents teaching their children how to live in a way that is pleasing to God, in the light of His Law-Word: ”when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Nothing of this implies the need for schools or schooling (even home schooling).  It is my contention that the unschooling model is closer to what God was talking about in this passage from the book of Deuteronomy; i.e. the unschooling process approximates the life education / education in life/ education for life paradigm. However, this must be qualified with the rider that the extreme manifestation of unschooling (i.e. radical unschooling[13]), where every learning decision is made by the child, is not Biblical. Proverbs 22:15 teaches us that “Folly (foolishness) is bound up in the heart of a child, … .” There are some very important educational decisions that must be made by parents on behalf of the child, simply because parents have lived life and can see consequences where there is neglect; such fundamentals as Scripture memorization, instruction in literacy decoding and encoding skills and foundational arithmetic (i.e. tables, etc.). These things are best learned by wrote, and learned early in a child’s life. Such things as basic manners and respect for God and others are best learned by example, through godly admonition and discipline, and in extremely serious situations, by appropriate punishment.

[1] Malachi 2:15 “Did he not make them one (man and wife), with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”

[2] Deuteronomy 6:1-9 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD your God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

[3] Genesis 3:17-19 ‘And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

[4] Genesis 6:1-7 “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God (men of the covenant line) saw the daughters of man (women of the ungodly line) were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose (according to physical attraction, not according to God’s covenant law—II Corinthian 6: 14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. …”; the sin of mixed-marriage). Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not contend with man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth (the state of apostasy of the progeny of inter-faith marriages), and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’

[5] When in the context of a legally married male husband and female wife, sexual activity is a gift from God (The Song of Solomon is a complete book of the Bible teaching about the joy and pleasure of human sexuality in the context of marriage; fully sanctioned and encouraged by God). On the other hand, when sexual activity is practiced outside of God’s ordained parameters (i.e. homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, fornication, adultery, and all other Biblically defined sexual perversions), then such sexual activity is sin worthy of God’s just punishments (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21;Colossians 3:5-6; I Peter 4:3-5; Revelation 22:15).

[6] Romans 6 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Chrst was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. …”

[7] The principle theme of the book: Rushdoony, R. J. (1976 [1963]). The Messianic Character of American Education. Nutley, New Jersey: The Craig Press.

[8] I Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, …”

I Peter 1:23 “… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; …”

John 3:5 “Jesus answered, ‘’Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

John 1:12-13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

[9] Much thanks to my friend Steve Swartz for his feedback on this part of the dissertation.

[10] John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 15:10 “If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

I John 2:3 “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”

[11] John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

I John 4:7-12 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

[12] In this context, “all Scripture” is referring to everything written in the Old Testament, including the Law of God as delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai.

[13] (Gerzon, 2012; Martin, 2014; N. Olsen, 2014)

References

Rushdoony, R. J. (1973). The Institutes of Biblical Law. Nutley, New Jersey: The Craig Press

Rushdoony, R. J. (1976 [1963]). The Messianic Character of American Education. Nutley, New Jersey: The Craig Press.

Rushdoony, R. J. (1983). The Trustee Family and Economics. The Journal of Christian Reconstruction. Vol. IX, Nos. 1 & 2, pp. 201-206.

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2 thoughts on “Family-Based Education: The role of the family in education

  1. Pingback: The State and the Family in Relation to Education | lanceaboxeducationresearch

  2. ronald slyderink says:

    This is a good summary of the Scriptural basis underlying home based education and it is foundational to what we learn/teach and how and why. It naturally involves family and other members of the community including the body of Christ.

    Although we can never force any child to love and obey God and be disciples of Jesus, we can lead that child to see and experience love by example and by engaging in purposeful activities and projects that will draw into it the needed knowledge, skills and relationships. We can and should provide opportunities to encourage children and the young to learn to serve and love those around us enhancing the quality of life and living, learning whatever is needed and relevant. Discipline and even suffering is part of the process but love forgiveness and building up is crucial.

    The focus should be to be immersed in working together to serving others in our learning whatever as a goal, not what modern education is mainly about, gaining head knowledge for the purpose of understanding (not wisdom) and self-gain without God guiding us and telling us how to live.

    Each teacher and learner is responsible as to how they respond to the call to love God and people and use their knowledge and skills. Unfortunately the ‘best’ education does not guarantee that its teachers or learners will respond. There are two issues I think that apply. First, leaders must set the right example and provide opportunities so students are able to learn what is important. Unfortunately we see a universal lack of Godly leadership and instead we see idolatry and self-seeking and pleasure as chief goals. Secondly, students must also be accountable, and realise that what they learn and do has consequences.

    In the final analysis we need God’s Spirit, we need to be ‘born again’ to be truly educated. The gospel of the King and the Kingdom of God, and the story of salvation, redemption, restoration and sanctification, …..living in and for Christ needs to be interwoven into all learning and teaching outcomes.

    Invariably, the greatest student and learner is the one who has submitted and surrendered their life, their heart, mind and hand to the Saviour and Lord of life, being open to receive and learn from God himself.

    Like

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