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.

* * *

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.

Comments

This sounds like a great endeavor and I wish you well but this letter is unnecessarily harsh regarding home schooling. There are potential problems with home schooling but that will be true of your effort as well. No educational approach which is carried out by fallen man is devoid of danger.

>>this letter is unnecessarily harsh regarding home schooling

Dear David,

Brian explicitly spoke of "dangers." He didn't pronounce judgments. So no, I don't think he was at all harsh. Just accurate in his statement of the dangers.

But speaking only for myself, it's my observation that Fortress Homeschool is a very prominent problem today. Also, that Fortress Homes are the bane of the Reformed/family values/patriarchal movement. The home is our idol instead of our base and center for ministry.

Love,

Excellent. If he were on ebay, I'd bid my eye-teeth for Brian Bailey. I'll settle for saving this post, rereading it and praying for this work.

Dear David,

I agree as a home-schooling parent that our first reaction to this would tend to be, "Why is he being so hard on home-schoolers?" I do agree with Brian, though, that these are the specific dangers to home schooling. I can't begin to estimate the percentage of home-schooled children have I seen that will have another adult exhort them or tell them not to do something and instead of obeying or taking to heart the adult's reproof, this child looks to his parent to see if he should obey or not. The child is taught that every bit of authority over him comes from the parent. There is no authority of the church, older men and women, or for that matter, often Scripture in these children's lives. We have insulated them so much that they are totally engulfed within this fortress of the home where they cannot be harmed.

We must give our home-schooled children's future, safety, intellect, future marriages, personalities, etc. to God and not seek to shelter them from the enemy to the point that they are suffocated and not learning about submission to authority and how to love and follow their Lord and Savior. In other words, they must not be our idols...which is what home schooled families tend towards in my experience.

Excellent work, Brian. I thank the Lord for His gift of you to us.

I don't think he's being that hard on homeschoolers in general. Rather, he's addressing a type of homeschooling ("Homeschooling" if you will) that rejects the obvious signs of worldliness, but embraces the more subtle types.

My family struggles to avoid these....and we are also enamored of the one room schoolhouse model as well. It seems to break many of the disfunctions of modern society, especially that of breaking up churches into 100 different age/sex/hobby groups. I used to joke that a church I attended had groups for 1 year olds, 2 year olds....all the way to "seasoned citizens with Winnebagos," "Seasoned citizens without Winnebagos," and "Seasoned citizens with Dodge Vipers and Winnebagos."

That church has, not surprisingly, collapsed under its own structure.

BTW, my family has homeschooled for years....and I'm well acquainted with some HOMESCHOOLERS with the fortress mentality. Not pretty what a works related theology does in the home school and factory!

Good post! It's especially important that we recognize the traps we ourselves are most vulnerable to, as opposed to smugly discussing the traps that get other people. One of the biggest traps for evangelicals, whether theologically sophisticated or not, is worship of The Family, which can neatly displace God without the worshipper even noticing Who's disappeared. Thus, good stewardship for some people demands not spending too much energy on one's family, just as it demands not spending too much time at work or play for other people. (But we should thank God we have so many things on which to use our talents, not complain about all the opportunities.)

For any CGS affiliates who read this and would like to know more, stay tuned. There will be a church-wide informational meeting in the very near future. . .

Dear Pastor Bayly,

Have you written on "The home is our idol instead of our base and center for ministry" because I would like to read it or would you write on it?

Love,
Michael

That's a great perspective. I never thought of our homeschool experience as being a "fortress". It's something to be aware of though.

How about The Shepherd's schoolhouse? Afterall, is it not about Him anyway? Just a thought.

A mighty fortress is our God...

I finished my education training at Northern Kentucky University, all the way up until student teaching. (Long story on why I changed majors). I'm greatly intrigued and interested in what this will entail and see how it all works out with curriculum, and the intention of using a one room schoolhouse model. This post has really got me thinking, both about career, and when I get married and have children and need to educate them.

Brian's analysis is excellent, and his prescription spot-on. As one who knows Brian closely, I hasten to add that harshness is far from a feature of his temperament. Clarity and forthrightness, however, are. Besides this, I'd have to add that I've known a number of friends whose experience with "Fortress Homes" has matched what Brian's described here, and has not led to fruitful Christian lives thereafter.

As Brian has said, the dangers here are not inevitable or across the board. I was homeschooled for much of my childhood, instructed by my mother (but also by my father), and encouraged toward excellence. I attended a school that incorporated the word "Academy" into its title and was not devoted to pride, and I don't think opposition to God is inherent to the Academy, per se.

But again, Brian isn't so much pronouncing judgments here as he is warning of dangers. And I've seen enough of my friends fall to convince me that the perils of homeschooling can be as great (or greater) as those of the public schools. Brian's pointed these out quite perceptively, and I have high hopes that God will bless this endeavor with much fruit in the days ahead.

Josh

Reading this post led me to think: this is blogging at its best. I am so thankful this was posted!

Last summer, with the home school year approaching, I sat down to come up with a name for our home school and write out a sketch for our goals and priorities. But reading this by Brian has shown me just how much room for improvement there is for me in my conception of what I’m trying to do.

I have to admit, I named our school TaylorWest Academy—-it never occurred to me that the idea of academy is an institution set up in defiance of God. But come to think of it, of course he’s right.

One thing I have considered at length though, is Brian’s critique of how homeschoolers tend towards perfectionism and a kind of baptized back-patting.
I have noticed this in particular with the “classical” homeschool crowd.

It’s all the rage to follow the narrow path outlined in the homeschool bible, a.k.a The Well-Trained Mind, while the real Bible collects dust. This homeschool bible is too tolerant to mention incorporating Christ into education, yet scores of Christian families cower under its unreasonable requirements.

But it isn’t only this book, it’s a whole movement. When Brian mentioned “prostration to the Bitch Goddess Success,” it made me think what a great subtitle that is for much of Classical Christian education.They insist our kids aren’t educated unless they know Latin by 3rd grade, Greek by 5th. They should know the Iliad and the Odyssey backward and forward and have read all of Shakespeare’s plays by a minimum of 4th grade or how dare you call them educated.

I feel that a whole generation of homeschooling families need to repent of offering up their children the idol of educational pride. No, your home school can’t be everything the new classical says it must, and show hospitality as well. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

Not everyone who rallies under the banner of classical is guilty as charged. An older meaning of the word, back when Dorothy Sayers wrote her essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, meant raising up life-long learners, becoming strong in the basics, giving children the tools they needed to self-learners.

But this new super-steroid education has departed from that. It is where every kid has to be an expert in every field; an expert in ancient history with the name of every Queen of Egypt memorized (the Well-Trained Mind recommends 1st grade for this), and expert in ancient languages, an expert in chemistry by 5th grade, and don’t forget music, fine art, dance, logic, critical thinking, rocket science, (okay everything but the last part.)

I loved reading Brian’s letter because he is someone who has the courage to make education what he thinks it ought to be. He’s not bowing down before anyone else’s idol. I’m a little more weak-kneed when it comes to that. When someone finds out that my kids don’t know Latin or that we aren’t strictly classical, I get kind of sheepish. I walk away with my tail between my legs, muttering: but my oldest cooks really well, and she’s great with toddlers. She’s teaching her 4yo sister to read, and can really clean a bathroom.
It’s funny—-none of those things are mentioned under requirements for being educated by the classical-minded. Hmmm. Women who know Latin and the name of every last Queen of Egypt and who have never cleaned a bathroom or taught a toddler. Now there’s a well-educated woman?

Sometimes it does have to be either-or.

Excellent post, Leslie! Whenever I feel pressured to homeschool ( or home educate is a better term) like everyone else, I remind myself of the fact that I don't want "cookie cutter" educated kids.

I always think back to the pioneers way of doing things: teaching kids to work hard, being respectful, faithful, prioritizing, showing hospitality, etc..

I also ask myself, what do my children really need when it comes to academics? Reading, writing, math, the history of our country, and most of all the Bible and how to live in obedience to it.

Sure glad you aren't my pastor today, because you sure wouldn't be tomorrow.  You are extrememly sexist and have not described ONE homeschool family I know, nor have you any kind of proof etc that traditional schooling protects kids from this.  Horrible.  

You are extrememly sexist

What the popular culture calls "sexist" is what the Bible and two millenia of Christianity call "sane."

It’s all the rage to follow the narrow path outlined in the homeschool bible, a.k.a The Well-Trained Mind, while the real Bible collects dust. This homeschool bible is too tolerant to mention incorporating Christ into education, yet scores of Christian families cower under its unreasonable requirements.
But it isn’t only this book, it’s a whole movement. When Brian mentioned “prostration to the Bitch Goddess Success,” it made me think what a great subtitle that is for much of Classical Christian education.They insist our kids aren’t educated unless they know Latin by 3rd grade, Greek by 5th. They should know the Iliad and the Odyssey backward and forward and have read all of Shakespeare’s plays by a minimum of 4th grade or how dare you call them educated.
I feel that a whole generation of homeschooling families need to repent of offering up their children the idol of educational pride. No, your home school can’t be everything the new classical says it must, and show hospitality as well. There aren’t enough hours in the day."

 

this statement is uneducated and completely ignorant.  Might want to do some research before spewing this garbage out of your mouth.  THIS is the problem with protestant churches, everyone has their own variation of the truth, in every subject matter.  **SHUTTER*** sure glad I am not a part of THAT!!!  Now, excuse me while I go back to my "fortress" and demand bitch goddess worship.

-it never occurred to me that the idea of academy is an institution set up in defiance of God. But come to think of it, of course he’s right.

 

REALLY?? I"m so sorry you are brainwashed.

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