Recovering the little schoolhouse...
"In Fortress Home School, the mother contends with her older boys. No matter who prevails, this contest has no winners. The mother risks overpowering her son or ending every day in frustration and bitterness."
(Tim) Several families here in Church of the Good Shepherd have been working together to found a Christian school that honors God by being led and substantively taught by the fathers of the household. This school also is committed to teaching the doctrines of Scripture that are avoided by mainstream Christian schools who must not provide any instruction that might appear sectarian.
This past week, I was speaking with one of the fathers and he told me of an e-mail written by another father and circulated among the board members of this school that had inspired him. I asked for a copy and if I could post it here on Baylyblog...
The dad who wrote it agreed to my requests and so you, too, will benefit from Brian Bailey's wisdom and faith.
If any Baylyblog readers are interested in joining this work, feel free to send Brian Bailey an e-mail. And if you don't live in Bloomington, it makes as much sense to move for a church and schoolhouse as to take a new job.
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Dear Brothers,Over the past few days [my wife] Nicole and I have been discussing curriculum. She’s done a lot of digging, evaluating, and thinking besides. We’ve also been reading about what has been done in the past. Through it all, I keep coming back to the core commitments of the Co-op. When it’s all said and done, like you, my desire is for my children to have poured out their lives as a drink offering to the Living God Who will say to them from the judgment throne, Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master. They must enter by the narrow gate at the end of their pilgrimage on the narrow path. If they take any other course, they will spend eternity tormented in Hell. That prompted me to think about how to explain our objectives at the church-wide meeting and what we should name the school or, at least, not name the school.
The principle of the narrow path applies to the education of our children. We need to remind ourselves of this continually as we exercise responsibility over the training up of our children. The father’s recognizing that responsibility and not lazily or selfishly shirking it is one of the core commitments of the co-op. Parents can lead their children off the narrow path or, what is really the same thing, fail to guard their children from being beckoned away from the narrow path by subversive and perverse instruction. It’s easy for the Christian parent to spot wickedness when it comes in the guise of Heather Has Two Mommies, the school condom dispensary, and the chucking of the principal’s paddle.
Less obvious forms are the idolatry of the State and our society’s whole-hearted prostration to the Bitch Goddess Success. That god and goddess have bewitched and ensnared a great many Christian schools and tempt you and me constantly. One aspect of the idolatry of the State is an enforced docility, servility, and homogeneity in the students...
Under the banner of Tolerance, Equality, and Civility, our children join together as Shiny Happy People Holding Hands. Another aspect is the lusting after SAT prominence, National Merit Scholarships, and acceptance to Ivy League schools.That’s one side of the narrow path.
The conservative Christian, however, tends to be more captivated by the Sirens over yonder, on the other side of the trail. He wanders off that way to avoid the Government School and Mainstream Christian Schools along with their pitfalls and spiritual landmines and lameness, but he fails to regard the traps concealed in the Home School. (He forgets that hearts deceitful above all things and desperately wicked populate the home as well as McKinley Elementary School.) The most significant trap is as big as the broad side of a barn. Much bigger actually. It’s Fortress Home School. The idolatry of the Fortress is more difficult to identify because Hugh Heffner and Big Brother aren’t superintending the classrooms. Mom is the superintendent, and she bakes apple pies and chocolate chip cookies. And she happens to be very beautiful.
What are the dangers? One danger is that the children themselves become idols and the exclusive recipients of the mother’s ministry outside the church (and in some cases, the exclusive recipients, period). The children, in turn, fail to learn that the home should be a place of extending the mercy of Jesus Christ to the weak and oppressed. Instead, they are taught that the home is not the place to practice hospitality to strangers, clothe the naked, feed the poor, or wash the feet of the saints. Who has the time or energy for that?
Another danger is that parents come to think that they are the exclusive repositories of all wisdom that concerns the education of their children. Or they become unwilling to make any accommodations toward a common effort in training the children of others and their own.
Another danger is the lack of manly training, accountability, and challenges for older boys during much of the day. While fathers of past generations were able to work with their sons during certain seasons of the year or times of the day, modern socioeconomic realities and divisions of labor simply won’t permit it. So even in earlier eras in which the home school predominated and even if the mother bore most of the responsibility for what we would today call academic instruction, the father was relatively close to home and could discipline and teach and push his sons to work hard. In Fortress Home School, the mother contends with her older boys. No matter who prevails, this contest has no winners. The mother risks overpowering her son or ending every day in frustration and bitterness.
This is a rough sketch. There’s much more that could be said. (For example, bearing the burdens of parents who aren’t as equipped to home school is one of our motivations that is implicit in avoiding the Fortress.) But I think this summarizes generally how we’re trying to lead our children along the narrow path. Of course, this isn’t to say that our proposed structure is THE narrow path. Or that Government School, Mainstream Christian School, and the Fortress Home School must end in the destruction of souls. It’s not that simple. Our proposed school is a particular response to the dangers we see facing Christian parents in the schooling of their children in different “learning environments”: licentiousness, sensuality, effeminacy, laziness, complacency, narcissism, greed, and super-achieving self-aggrandizement. Our objective is stirring up our children to attain to the alien righteousness without which no man will see God.
Whatever we name the school, the word “Academy” shouldn’t come within a mile of it. The Academy opposes God and serves as a temple to man’s pride. It always has and always will. It’s in the nature of the thing.
Since our model is a one-room schoolhouse and because of the warm feelings and the nostalgia associated with the one-room schoolhouse, schoolhouse should be in the name somewhere.
Schoolhouse is humble and carries obvious connotations of family. The headmaster stands in the place of the parents. He should care about the souls of the children as much as their parents do. The children should learn to regard one another as better than themselves and give preference to one another in love. That doesn’t happen in my house often, but it should be the objective of, if not the norm in, a mature Christian home.
“Schoolhouse” rejects the modern efficiencies, theories, and fads of today’s educator, along with the degeneration and vacuousness resulting from his methods.
“Schoolhouse” will also resonate with [Church of the Good Shepherd] CGSers who think fondly of the church-house.
The name, I think, should reflect the ultimate objective of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever and the dangers our children will face and must overcome along their pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem. Pilgrim, warfare, narrow gate, narrow path (not Journey—it’s taken and too generic), Good Shepherd (dissonant because shepherds don’t work in houses). Narrow probably sounds too pretentious and Gnostic, but how I would love to thumb my nose at Diversity and Tolerance. This is to help us explain the school to others and to prod us to name the school.