What I Did This Summer Part 7
As a father of eleven children, I have become an expert in packing for summer vacation. Let me rephrase that. I’m an expert in packing for fall or spring vacation. We don’t do summer vacations because I don’t like to wait in lines so we go in September or April. This is yet another huge advantage of homeschooling! It gives a whole new meaning to the term “spring break.” When we do go on an extended trip, one can only imagine the pile of suitcases, pillows, toys and food that must somehow find their way into our van along with the children.
It’s not unlike starting the homeschool journey. “Where do I even begin?” is the frantic cry of many a parent. The place to begin is the third ICHE principle of home discipleship…character development.
“Chronologically and fundamentally, the first step in Christian home schooling is beginning a life-long process of developing Godly character within the child. This builds a vital foundation in the child, preparing him to succeed not only in the academic learning which later follows, but also in life itself. He learns to constructively direct his thoughts and attention, show due respect to his parents and superiors, apply his energies and efforts beneficially, demonstrate appropriate courtesy to everyone he meets, and thereby to live peaceably according to God’s law. Every life so lived is a salt that preserves and promotes civil order and brings blessing to the individual, the family, and the culture at large.”
I trust you see by this definition that there is a significant difference between home discipleship and what most people simply deem “home education.” While we do stress academic excellence, we first emphasize excellence in character for the Bible plainly teaches that knowledge in and of itself “puffeth up.” All the “isms” of mankind are birthed by knowledge apart from the God of the Bible. Pragmatism. Secularism. Humanism. Atheism. It’s only when wisdom and knowledge are born out of a fear of the Lord do they retain their right and proper place in our hearts.
I remember years ago reading a short essay called, “Everything I Learned I Learned in Kindergarten.” It made the point that such vital issues such as sharing, showing deference and being honest should be learned early on as these lay a foundation for the rest of life. Character is sorely lacking in our society and the foundation of culture is shaking because of it. At one time our public schools worked in harmony with the character values that were taught at home. Those days are long gone. In a culture based on evolutionary thinking and the secular humanism it spawns, we cannot naïvely assume these all-important lessons are naturally acquired through some type of spiritual osmosis. It is taught through doing life on a daily basis. It is taught through home discipleship.
I’ve talked with numerous parents over the years who had taken their children out of public school. When asked how they should begin homeschooling, I tell them to spend however much time it takes working on character issues, whether this is a few weeks, a few months or even the entire year. If we don’t build on the solid ground of good character, the quagmire of culture will motivate our children to do whatever it takes, right or wrong, to get ahead. Furthermore, we can’t let the Big Bad Wolf of “Academics Above All Else” intimidate us into bowing at its altar. Much of this theory—including the emphasis on classical literature and college for everyone—is rooted not in scripture but in the government school mentality which is an artificial environment, based not on real world experience but rather educational theories of individuals with a worldview agenda completely opposite of the Bible. For example, what happens to children who yell at their teacher or come in habitually late for class? A lecture that has no teeth at all? The threat of a 30-minute detention? Is this how character works in the real world? Try yelling at your boss or clocking in late day after day. How do we spell detention in the real world of character? T-E-R-M-I-N-A-T-I-O-N.
I try to be brutally honest with life. This often gets me in trouble with some folks who don’t want to face facts. In the half century I’ve now lived, if there is one thing I’ve learned, character matters. No, this is not some catchy title for a government or school program that is doomed to fail from the outset for the simple reason it is not within their jurisdictional responsibilities to begin with. Character training must form the basis of our children’s educational experience. Yes, teach math. English is also important. History? Absolutely! Know this however; without character, not only will our children’s education be flawed, their entire lives will be defective. I have told my sons on numerous occasions that if they will employ basic character traits - show up on time, be honest, respect people and honor their employer - they will experience near limitless potential in their work place.
Like my van, you can only pack so much into a day. Make character development a priority. It will serve your children well in this life and in the life to come.
For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children;
That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,
That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;--Psalms 78:3-5 (NKJV)
Executive Director, ICHE