From HOW eNews Issue 5, Volume 4|
What the World was Crying Out For
A Forty Year Journey
by Kevin Swanson
Keynote Speaker, HOW 2012 Convention
The homeschooling movement began for me forty years ago. My mother taught me to read in a little two-bedroom home in Portland, Oregon as my father attended a Baptist seminary there. In 1969 my father made a life-altering decision. Years later, I asked him why he decided to go to Japan as a missionary. He told me that he wanted to bring the gospel to the Japanese, but there was something else that played heavily in his decision. Throughout the 50s and 60s he taught in public schools and private Christian schools and he made up his mind that he did not want to raise his children in this culture. So my father took us to an island and made up his own culture.
Occasionally, you will hear somebody complain that homeschooling shelters children from things like fornication, body piercing, rape rap, and people who like to use the f word. They really do have a point. We were the sheltered poster children of the 1970s. There was no denying it. In fact, we were quite self-aware of our weirdness. When I was fourteen years old, the family was on deputation one summer in Illinois, and I was fishing in a large pond near my grandfather’s house. Things got exciting when I reeled in a big one, and some kid in the vicinity expressed his amazement by taking God’s name in vain. In shock, I dropped the fish. But it wasn’t the size of the fish that caught me off guard, it was hearing a swear word for the first time in my life. The fish slithered back into the pond.
Over the next several years, I began to grapple with the relationship of this sheltered boy with the world around me. As I set off for college at seventeen years old, I claimed an old hymn as mine. It was written by Isaac Watts, and we had sung that song often as we met for a forty-minute devotion time each morning as a family out on that island.
Am I a soldier of the Cross a follower of the Lamb?
Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God?
Must I be carried to the sky on flowery beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?
As I matriculated to a California State University (San Luis Obispo), it wasn’t long before I was active in secular media, campus theater, politics, and student government. By my senior year, I was elected student body president, serving on several California State University Commissions and leading a student body of 17,000 students. I remember one particularly hot political battle, when my opponents charged into my office, taking issue with my veto of a bill that commended sexual promiscuity on the campus. One fellow asked me, Where do you get your values? And I pointed to the Bible sitting on my desk.
This wasn’t just some weird kid raised on an island, sheltered from people who use the f word. It wasn’t just a matter of protecting. My father protected me, so that he could prepare me to impact a culture for Christ. He didn’t want me taking on the attitudes, the values, the cultural decay, and the sinful lifestyles of the world around me, but he did give me a foundation of truth with which I could take on the world.
Today, all six children raised out on that island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are serving God in some capacity somewhere around the world, an answer to my parents prayers and a confirmation of my fathers early vision. In a day, when 80% of children raised in Christian families walk away from the faith, that’s saying something. God was good to that family.
As I grew up on that island isolated from western culture, two things were nurtured into the life of a boy: an organic sense of human relationships and an absolute source of truth. My father wrote one of the first books on biblical creation for the Japanese, suggesting that it would be better to interpret rock layers by the Word of God, than interpret the Word of God by rock layers.
The breakdown of the family and public morality and the growth of government are indisputable trends of the last century. For the first time in millennia, nations like ours must grapple with 37% illegitimacy rates, 95% pre-marital fornication rates, and rising trends in singleness, homosexuality, and imploding birth rates. There is not a nation in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas untouched by the worldviews that drove this phenomena. But how do we best summarize these worldviews? I think the simplest way to summarize the world and life view of post-modern man, is by calling the man lost and lonely. I’m hardly saying anything controversial here, for the man himself wouldn’t deny it. He cuts himself off from truth and relationship and the result is a breakdown of morality and the family.
The Breakdown of Truth
From the 14th century humanist renaissance, man worked hard to define himself and his truth without Gods Word as the foundation of wisdom and knowledge. Then, beginning with the skepticism of David Hume in the 18th century, and then concluding with Neitzsche, Dewey, and Sartre, man gave up his search for an absolute truth and purpose in life. Man is utterly lost and any self-conscious nihilist of our day will admit it.
The Breakdown of Relationships
Relationships and community is largely lost in the modern cities. It was not as much the Industrial Revolution as the ideas of men who disliked relationships that drove the transience and the superficiality of modern relationships, as well as the family-disintegrating education, entertainment, and economic systems. Since Rousseau abandoned his five children on the steps of an orphanage and set out to write the book on educating a child for the modern age, the world of professionals, psychiatrists, counselors, and instructors replaced the old world of fathers, mothers, grandmothers, friends, and pastors. Mega churches and six-month divorce recovery workshops replaced long term relationships in community and closely-integrated family life that had existed for thousands of years previous. The modern city and churches are built for the anonymous life of the vagabond (Gen. 4:12,17). Man is lonely.
Francis Schaeffer was one of the most outstanding Christian thinkers of the 1960s and 1970s, and his work can best summarized by his conclusion that man is lost and lonely and needs a personal relationship with the infinite, absolute, and personal God. (He is There and He is Not Silent, Chapter 1). But he was unable to incarnate the principle well, and many of his readers were left frustrated, without any real answer to the question he asked in his magnum opus, How shall we then live?
Ironically, Schaeffer passed away in 1984, at the outset of the most important movement of the century that would incarnate his ideas better than any other. For it was the home education movement that would find the verse that would revive a new world and life view to a lost and lonely world. That verse was Deuteronomy 6:7.
"And thou shalt teach [my words] diligently unto thy children, and shalt 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."
What the world was crying out for was truth and relationships. But what about truth taught within the context of relationship? What better incarnation and renewal of a principle could we find for a lost and lonely world? Here was a fundamental re-integration of family relationships that came with the re-introduction of teaching and discipleship into the home. With Christian homeschooling, the teaching of the Word was integrated into every aspect of the child’s life, from the rising up to lying down at night. It was as a frontlet hanging in front of that child’s eyes (verse 8), and signs on the posts of the house. No longer was God and his truth barred from some significant portion of our children’s lives, such as the intellectual and academic. To a world that had come to despise close parent-child relationships and Gods truth as the foundation of knowledge, came a new paideia (system of training) for a child.
As we grew up with this movement, we began to see that education was more discipleship of faith and character and the integration of knowledge into life, than it was stuffing useless facts into the heads of kids. This form of discipleship resulted in stronger academics, stronger faith and character, and certainly, a better-prepared student for life and eternity.
And the effects of this movement are nothing short of phenomenal! According to research conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute, there are at least 2 million homeschoolers in America today. New colleges are forming to serve the home school population. Homeschoolers feed huge segments of the Creation movement, the worldview seminars, and conservative political organizations, such that these other movements would probably not exist without the homeschool movement. One recent study conducted by Dr. Brian Ray (that analyzed data collected from 7200 home school graduates), indicated that home school graduates, 18-25 years of age, were 14 times more likely to be involved in efforts to impact the civil government than their counterparts from public and private schools.
Admittedly, homeschooling is not the only possible incarnation of a principle that has promise to renew the things we have lost in the post-modern world. But it does represent a good start. The social consequences of this movement will play out in the lives of millions. It will take several generations before the vision is truly recognized and lived out consistently by those who stick to it. But suffice it to say, the world will not be the same because one father made a decision in 1969.
Kevin Swanson is a pastor, father, and the executive director of Generations with Vision. He hosts the daily Generations Radio program heard anytime, anywhere in the world at http://generationswithvision.com/