History's Advice for Homeschooling

by Lorraine Curry


Historical educators usually agree on the following.

1) Children are a gift from God.

2) Parents are commanded to train their children for God.

3) All education is for the individual, not for the state.

4) All should have the opportunity to be educated.


The Hebrews

The education of the earliest Hebrews centered around the family. The notion of the state is almost unknown - God is the real king, while the perfect man is pious and virtuous, capable of attaining the ideal traced by God himself in these terms - Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy (Lev. 19:2).

The child, then, was to become the faithful servant of Jehovah. To this end it was not needful that he should be learned, but only that he should know God's laws and ordinances. These were first taught by the oral communication and instructive example of the parents. Fathers also taught their children the nation's history and the great events that had marked the destiny of the people of God.

The discipline given to children was unwavering in firmness, proven by many passages in the Bible. Some say it was too harsh, and yet children grew in character and were kept from evil in learning the fear of the Lord. It was Almighty God who was to be pleased, not "almighty child." Today we are too quick to avoid offending the child, and the modern-day, child-rights advocates, while God and his perfect parenting patterns are often being given second place. "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God . . ." (1 Cor. 3:19)

At the time of Christ, Jewish boys entered school at the age of six. They were taught reading, writing, a little of natural history and a great deal of geometry and astronomy. Naturally, the Bible was the first book put in their hands. The master interspersed moral lessons with the teaching of reading and made a special effort to secure a correct pronunciation. He multiplied his explanations in order to make sure of being understood, repeating his comments even to the four-hundredth time if necessary. It seems that the methods were suggestive and attractive and-at this time-the discipline relatively mild.


The Methods of the Master

(Scriptures references are from the book of Matthew, unless otherwise noted.)

Jesus Christ's most intimate teaching was reserved for those who would be teaching others. Before beginning, and regularly during His ministry, He prepared spiritually. We too begin by sitting at His feet and receiving His special guidance.

Christ taught everywhere. He modeled the command that was given us specifically as parents to talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deut. 6:7). His method was personal dialog, but sometimes-as with large groups-the Master used the "lecture" method. He read aloud (in the temple) and used the Word. When Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (12:40-42).

When he opened His mouth, truth after truth flowed out in streams of living water. We can also speak with wisdom and authority if we have spent time in God's Word. He didn't mind being interrupted (9:18,19) and often was, by questions that led to further teaching and discussion (12:38-45). He also, by questioning, stirred His hearers to deep thought (11:7-14). He made sure His listeners understood His teaching (13:51) and the value of their learning (13:53). His teaching was keyed to the comprehension of the listener-in His conversation with the learned Nicodemus, He plunged at once into the most profound doctrines; when He talked with the Samaritan woman, His approach to the truth was most simple and gradual. He didn't hesitate to correct and was stern when necessary but always spoke truth and righteousness. Even in sternness, His motive was love (12:34). Although His was the ideal pedagogy, we can also learn from some of history's other educators.


The Early Christians

Christianity-by its dogmas, by its concept of the equality of all human creatures, by its spirit of charity-introduced new elements into the conscience and gave a powerful impetus to the moral education of men. Christianity raised the poor and disinherited from their condition of misery and promised them the same instruction. The essence of equal rights for all is contained in the doctrine of Christianity.

They rejected a corrupt and perverse world.

The early Christians came to a common hatred of classical literature and pagan religion. How could they receive with sympathy the literary and scientific inheritance of a society whose morals they hated? The Christian was detached from the commonwealth of man, to enter into the commonwealth of God. He must break with a corrupt and perverse world.


John Milton (1608-1674)

Best known for his Paradise Lost, Milton was already an accomplished scholar at the age of fifteen. Later in life he wrote a tract on educational reform. The opening statement of this work implies that the educator serves for "the love of God and of mankind." The teacher molds human nature by "knowledge of God, love to God and hence imitation of God, until we become like God."

Milton felt that being taught to appear to know was a root of all falsehood in life, society and professions. Today we have the deception of "teaching to the test" by teachers and cramming for tests by students, wherein knowledge departs when the test is completed.

Tips from Milton

* The knowledge of words is best obtained by the early knowledge of things. The knowledge of things begins when the parent points out and names objects as the baby is taught to speak.

* Language (literature) records the experience and traditions of other people and times and is how we acquire all information. Begin educating with interesting books that invite study, provoke thought and encourage virtue.

* Along with delightful books, the teacher should provide careful instruction and explanation in order to stimulate love for learning and willful obedience. Teaching should arouse thought and exercise memory. If what is studied fails to become the property of the mind, learning is in vain.

* Scriptures, times tables and other facts should be reviewed.

* Go over the same subject matter in greater depth. This is also suggested in Easy Homeschooling Techniques and also in The Well-Trained Mind.

* Math should be part of every day studies.

* Evenings should be given to the study of the Scriptures. A habitual devotional time is crucial. Giving God unhurried time will honor Him as the Highest and instill honor for Him and his Word in your children.

* Topics studied should begin with the easy but be thoroughly learned.

* Do not force "the empty wits of children to compose themes and essays" on subjects of which they know nothing.

* Most of all, incite to virtue and to a desire to make a mark in their lifetime and beyond.

* Children should be taught to despise bad character.

* The parents' good example readily motivates the young child with a desire for doing right, because children want to be just like their parents.

* Education should produce well-informed and moral citizens.


Learning is the result of proper and Biblical training. The Word shows what is required and instills all the proper character traits by the its inherent power. Using the Bible first and foremost will enable our children to be stellar students, educated adults, and responsible citizens.

Quotes by Milton extracted from John Gill's Systems of Education (Boston: D.C. Heath 1886) and those by Locke from History of Education (Philadelphia: Lippencott, 1909) by E. L. Kemp A.M.

All rights reserved by the author - © March 2006

Permission to reprint is possible, please contact the author for consideration.

About the author: Lorraine Curry is the author of 5 Star Easy Homeschooling books.
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