by Peter Ditzel
In the past couple of decades, home schooling has risen from the ranks of being considered the bizarre behavior of an obscure group of fringe extremists to being one of the major trends of our society. And is it any wonder? By now, most of us are at least casually familiar with the frequent reports of poor academic performance by public school children. And who can miss the appalling headlines of shootings, drug trafficking, and seedy affairs between teachers and students?
Of course, we can attribute some of this to the sensationalism that is the stock-in-trade of a media driven by the increased advertising revenue that high ratings and circulation bring in. Nevertheless, even with that understanding, I think we would all agree that violence, drugs, and sex, as well as floundering educational standards, are problems in our schools. But are they reason enough for us to pull our children out of these cherished public institutions, away from their mentors and peers, and make an amateurish attempt to educate them in the isolation of our homes? If you are a parent or potential parent, should you consider teaching your own children?
I am not going to attempt to hide that I approach all such questions from the viewpoint of the Bible. You might be surprised to know that our sovereign, wise, and loving God has given us some very definite principles concerning the educating of our children. And, wherever you stand on the education issue, you might find yourself at least a little taken aback, if not downright shocked, to learn what these principles are.
Where Children Really Come From
In considering this matter, let’s ask a couple of questions that may seem to be absurdly simple: Whom do we want to educate? Of course, the answer is children. Next question: Who are children? Naturally, they are the offspring of their parents, and children and parents together make up a family unit. This is precisely what we find in the Bible.
In Genesis 1 and 2, we find that God created man (Genesis 1:26; 2:7), said that it was not good for the man to be alone (2:18), and created a woman (v. 22) to be the man’s wife (v. 24). Notice that she became his wife, not casual live-in partner, and she was a she, not a he! This was the beginning of the family, though the family was not yet complete.
Skipping the account of the Fall in Genesis 3, we see in chapter 4 that Eve had children. This was in accord with God’s command in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” It is a principle of biblical interpretation that the first place that something is mentioned in the Bible often tells us something significant about that thing. Genesis 4:1 tells us of the birth of the first child: “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain.” Notice what Eve says in response to this birth: “I have gotten a man from the Lord.”
Think about what Eve said. Even though this verse clearly says that Adam and Eve had sexual relations and that this resulted in Eve becoming pregnant and giving birth to Cain, Eve says she has gotten a man “from the Lord.” What can this mean? Simply this: Children are from God. We read of this in a number of places in the Bible, such as in Psalm 127:3: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
Children are an inheritance or possession given by God. And to whom does He give them? Does He give them to the United Nations? Does He give them to the federal government? the state? the county? or the city? What about the local school board? No. God gives children to their parents. And this simple fact has some wide implications.
I must emphasize again that children are from God. Although they are the progeny of their parents, they are not merely that. They are gifts from God, and you can be sure that God does not give them carelessly. Naturally, He does not want parents to take lightly these gifts He has given them. Along with the gifts come responsibilities.
Abraham understood that his parental responsibilities included instruction. In Genesis 18:19, God says He knows Abraham “will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” In other words, God knew that Abraham would educate his family in the way of the Lord and charge them to live accordingly. God so approved of Abraham’s instructing of his family that he took Abraham into His confidence about the action He was planning to take concerning the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The next few Scriptures we will examine contain directives from God concerning the instructing of children. In Exodus 10:1–2, we read that God told Moses that He had hardened Pharaoh’s heart so He could show His signs (the plagues) to Pharaoh and “that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord.” The word translated tell, as used here, means to give an accurate recounting of the facts. In Exodus 12:26–27 and 13:8, we find commands to the Israelites to instruct their children concerning the meaning of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Deuteronomy 4:9–10 contains the first connection of the word “teach” with “children” (as used of little children; there are earlier references to teaching the “children of Israel” as meaning the people of Israel): “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.” God wants the knowledge of Him, His law, and His works passed on to the next generation.
Now, this might still leave a couple of questions, such as: 1) who was to do the instructing? and, 2) was only religious instruction, and not secular instruction, in view here?
Copyright © 2000-2009 Peter Ditzel