COVENANT AND HOME SCHOOLING

The following was taken from a Newsletter written by Mr.Slabbert Le Cornu.
Mr. Le Cornu lives in South Africa from where he sends this Newsletter. Translated from the Afrikaans by Gilbert Zekveld.

THE EZRA REPORT Nov 4, 1998

Mr. Le Cornu writes: "Some people are very anti home school, but I myself -although I see more advantage in home schooling - would like to see private schools and home schools working TOGETHER to advance God's Kingdom here on earth."

ESRA VERSLAG's address: P.O. Box 12303, Hatfield, 0028, Pretoria, South Africa.
e-mail address: slecornu@netlab.co.za

COVENANT AND HOME SCHOOLING
 
by Slabbert Le Cornu.

The Promise given at Baptism as Basis for Covenantal Home Schooling

In the Covenant God gave His children to us with the intent, that we would give these children back to Him. To obey this, means that the parents according to the promise given at the baptism of their children, shall make use of all means at their disposal, in order to faithfully fulfill this promise. Most parents make use of private schools and public schools, as expedient to "cause their children to be instructed therein". However, the last thirty years, a "forgotten" means to bring up children has made a welcome comeback, i.e., the "home school." Advancing educational and technological developments during the past couple of decades, have made it possible for parents to educate their covenant children at home. The intention of this home-instruction, runs parallel to  the purpose and intent of the parents,  who by the grace of God are given, not only the means for the child to mature bodily into adulthood, but also the means to instruct them in the disciplines that are normatively offered in the schools.

In the U.S.A. there are about 1.2 million families that home school their children, this has far reaching consequences for both the area of faith and the area of academia. Within our denomination here in South-Africa there still is much ignorance in this respect and many people have wrong notions about home-schooling. Therefore it is good to give attention to the following aspects of home schooling from a reformed view.

1 The Purpose of Reformed Home schooling

Covenant parents are in Scripture admonished to bring up their covenant child in the fear of the Lord "that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify Him" (H. Cat. question and answer 6"; Deut. 6: 5).
In connection with the baptismal promise Dr. B. Holwerda taught, that we are first baptized in the Name of the Father, our Creator.  This means that all the cosmos belongs to the Lord Creator. Therefore Reformed education is directed to all areas of life, which by His Church, (of whom those children are a part), must be regained.

In the second place, we are baptized in the Name of the Son, which means that the antithesis must be maintained - for or against Christ - also maintained in the curriculum and method of teaching.

In the third place, we are baptized in the Name of the Holy Spirit, which signifies that the Spirit calls and gives the capacity to teach Reformed education, not only to teachers, but also to the parents.

In these three points, both home schooling and private schooling, must be Reformed.
 

2. The Responsibility and Organization of Reformed Home schooling

Covenant parents are obliged in Scripture to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord, in order for them to love and serve God and their neighbour (Deut. 6: 4-9; Ps. 78: 1 -10; Eph. 6: 1, 2; 2 Tim. 1: 5; 3: 15-17; etc. The demand to bring our children up in the fear of the Lord comes in connection with the covenant. Deut. 6: 4-9, begins with: Hear, therefore, 0 Israel, …." and then follows the specific demand, "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and talk of them when thou sittest in thy house…" (see also Ps. 78: 5).

When our children are baptized, the parents promise to bring up their children in the fear of Israel, [the Church] is witness and "expedient" that watches and assists the parents in their task and responsibility. Historically we see, that as a rule the parents taught their children, not only in the academic area, but also when they learned an occupation. It was done with the necessary support and help of a/o., the Church, priests, slaves, catechism classes, etc.

With the industrial revolution, the explosion of technical know-how, and the division of labour, etc., more and more specialization was introduced, and parents thought it necessary to establish schools that offer specialization in many areas. That school model was established with good intentions, but was gradually changed into an independent institution, which later changed even more and began to function against the Church and the family. This led to the absolutizing and academizing the children's upbringing, and their upbringing became the task of "experts".

Although the Reformed parental school did not theoretically accept this gradual decay, it unfortunately practically led to the upbringing of covenant children becoming the task of the Church and school as an institution, instead of the centrally within the covenant family. J. Veenstra, director of the Reformed basis school at Emmen, the Netherlands, describes the decay as follows:
 

"In spite of this, the school plays a large role in the upbringing of the child. That role can become so great that the school becomes an educational institution, and the family degrades into a hotel, where the child comes, only to eat and sleep... Now, at the end of the twentieth century, where marriage and family is more and more under political and societal pressure, considering the place and task of our family and the place and task of our school has become extremely important."


We must ask ourselves today, if as parents, we are still bringing our children up in the fear of the Lord by making use of Church and school, and if we do not delegate that task to other persons and institutions? Do we just take our children to Church and school thus leaving them in the care of others?

Concerning the triangle of family, school and Church, this is a healthy concept in as far as it is not made an absolute working against the sake of family and Church.  We can also ask the question, if it would not be better to speak of a twofold relationship for the upbringing of our children, which should be in the first place: family and Church; rather than seperate institutions outside or next to the family and Church.

We must remember that the Lord established three basic institutions in which the covenant must function, i.e., the Family, Church and State (Gen. 1: 26-28; 2: 24; Matt. 16: 18; Rom. 13: 1-7). Other supporting institutions - among which the school - must live under this divine principle and not function independently. This aspect is very important when we give a judicious judgment in the matter of home schooling.

3. The Content and Method of Home schooling

Deuteronomy 6: 7,8 points to the fact that all our thinking ('between our eyes") and all you do (hands), must be in service of God. Therefore, the Word of the Lord cannot be restricted to family and Church life only; for, as Scripture teaches: " ... on the way, when you lie down, when you rise up, etc."  - in all you do - you must be led by the law of God. This is one of the advantages of home schooling, that the child experiences education and upbringing as a way of life and not as something that is done only on certain hours of the day, at school, or in Church, catechism classes, or society life.

At home they learn diligently, have work to do, they can play, everything according to the law of the Lord. Therefore, home schooling must not take place in isolation, for in Deut. 6: 9, parents are also shown the extension of covenant upbringing: "And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates". Thus, private life (the home) but also society (thy gates) must be brought under the dominion of Christ by Reformed instruction.

Covenant instruction begins in the home, but does not end there, for it flows over into a life in the covenant, in both Church and all the broad areas of society. In the covenantal home the children are taught the first principles of how to seek God's will and honour. Totius, the foundational church and Afrikaner leader in the first halF of the twentieth century in S.A. wrote, and rightly so,
 

"History proves when the family is sound, both Church and State flourish. The family is the foundation of human society. Give as thus Reformed families and the Church will prosper. Otherwise we certainly will face a dark future."


May this be a prophecy for and not against the Reformed Church in South Africa!
 

4. Practical Considerations Concerning Home schooling

It is important to mention that home schooling does not mean that the parents must be the only teachers, but it does mean that the parents are the primary educators and instructors, who then can call for help and assistance with the subjects and skills they are not qualified to teach. But with all the means and technological possibilities that are at our disposal today, it is for the average covenant parent possible to do mostly or even all of the teaching for the primary grades.

When our parents once more take upon themselves this noble task, we will have one more possible practical advantage, in that there is already a Reformed High school (exchanging the current John Calvin primary school to an high school) at our disposal, which could specialize in training parents how to instruct their children, and at the same time also offer special subjects and courses for the children.

Home schooling promotes greater responsibility by the parents for the development of the children. It is also not as costly, for there are no salaries to be paid, school buildings are not needed, etc. Parents can give more and better attention to individual needs, while each child can take the time it needs to learn the lesson, without keeping other children from further progress. Parents and especially mothers will be compelled to remain students, of both God's Scripture and of Nature, a task that was very much left to the Pastor and the Teacher.

The role of Mother as homemaker and educator of the children is then again appreciated and emphasized, for home schooling demands hard work, much studying and sacrifice, but the results are greatly blessed.  Furthermore, a parent can only teach the law of God to their children, when this is part of their own heart and life (Deut. 6: 6); it is also true that parents can maintain better discipline and authority over their own children. The method of home schooling demands more independent studies from the child, and prepares them better for after school training. Tests in the U.S.A. have proven that home schooled chidren mature faster, socialize better and are more responsible than children from ordinary schools.

Finally we can mention that the very demanding church activities, school activities, and pressures from society, have taken their toll of family-life. From this individualism has sometimes sprung up to the point that each member of the family has its own program and agenda, and so they begin to live beside, but not with each other. Home schooling can be instrumental in bringing the covenantal life back to the family, back to its rightful place, thus better serving the Church of Christ, and the propagation of His Kingdom over all the earth (Is.59:21).

Conclusion and Suggestions

One of the challenges for parents in South Africa who intend home schooling, is establishing a Reformed curriculum in the Afrikaner language, with the situation at home in view. The work that has been done already in connection with private schools, can in this respect be of great assistance for home school development. Here, the unity of life in the covenant can again be maintained and mutual knowledge, skills and experience about Reformed upbringing be shared with each other.

Finally: In answering where and how I will rear my covenant child, home schooling is a responsible, Reformed option that merits solid consideration, especially with a view to the present developments in South African schools. Reformed home schooling is and must not be individualistic, and must not work in isolation of Church and society. We must work together as covenant parents, in order to stimulate a Reformed vision of education and way of life. As with private schools, the view of the covenant and calling in home schooling shall be determined by the purpose, content and method of the instruction, and also by the faith, character, and view of life, of parents and teachers.

Let us be careful in this respect and not rashly develop a critique of something of which we are largely ignorant, without having made solid research, before truly concluding the matter. As parents of covenant children let us strengthen each other when we wish to instruct our children in the way of the covenant; and in prayer and deed, humbly depend upon the Lord, with our eyes directed to the calling and task before us, as Prof. B. Holwerda said at one time:
 

"The mouths of little ones, including the tatter of babes, is a mighty instrument that He will use to break the rule of Satan, and whereby He will establish His Kingdom and re-conquer the world. ... the motive of the great enemy (the antithesis brought about by Christ) must again move us. Let us work to establish this in all the areas of life; in all relationships, the Name of God must again be hallowed. Then we, most of us as parents of covenant children, will truly know what Christian education is, and stand behind it! Then we will be immovable like our fathers, and say: Here we stand we can do no other. Here on earth we confess the Name of the Lord! We will give our children to no one else, or for anything else, never".


Translation: Gilbert Zekveld.

For Cross and Crown, Slabbert Le Cornu