Smart, Humble, and Natural: And Our Last Best Hope

Andrew Pudewa invited me to address his Writer’s Symposium this week at Wake Forest University. The attendees were devoted users of the IEW materials, especially his Institute on Structure and Style.

People told me nice things about the sessions I delivered (which will be made available by IEW in their catalogue if I rightly understood the contract Julie Walker shoved under my face in a hurried moment on the first night. Just kidding on the second part.), but the real highlight for me was watching and interacting with the attendees.

I’ve been watching the private school and home school movements for about 20 years now, and I have to say, it’s an impressive lot of people. The home school moms I’ve interacted with are smart, humble, natural people.

It’s quite a contrast from the professional women with whom I’ve interacted over the same 20 years. This is a generalization, a statement about a sub-culture more than about any individuals – maybe a statement about a temptation the modern professional woman has to deal with. But here it is. The typical professional woman, in my limited experience, is also pretty smart, but she isn’t as humble, and she certainly isn’t natural.

I will probably be eaten alive for saying that, but I do have a point that a third group of women would do well to think about, so I’ll go ahead and risk my reputation for their sake.

I’m talking now about the private school teacher. A question for you: Do you want to be more like the professional woman or the home school mom? Which one more closely approximates the ideal toward which you are striving?

The reason I have a glimmer of hope for America is that when God told Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah had become so wicked that they were a threat to well-being of other nearby communities and had to be destroyed, Abraham was able to negotiate God down to saving Sodom if only ten just people lived there.

Maybe God will preserve this Gomorrah because of the just people among us. Maybe he’ll find a proportion equal to ten in Sodom. If so, it will be the achievement of the home school mom.

There are many pretty good private schools in America, but I would contend that the Industrial model of education is so unnatural and contrary to the human spirit that the very structure of our schools blinds us to the things we most need to see.

But the home is a natural, God-created structure. In the home the highest human faculties and potentials grow as though in their natural soil.

So now I have a question for the Christian school leaders. Where do you look for your models? Do you want to be more like the corporate institution or the home school? Which one more nearly approximates the ideal toward which you are striving?

The home grows naturally into the farm and then into the community. The corporate business is often, in our day at least, a parasite, living off the fruit of the community, redirecting its energies, and doing very little to sustain it. The bigger the business, the more true this is.

That very little is a sauve to its conscience and becomes increasingly less valuable. Which does the school seek to emulate?

Home schooling moms are the last best home for freedom within this last best hope for freedom which was once our nation. Our nation having formally abandoned concrete freedoms for abstract rights, it cannot be counted on any more to defend freedom.

And here’s the main reason I’m encouraged and somewhat hopeful, though I do believe the next couple decades will be the hell to pay. Home schooling moms, in general, are smart, humble, and natural.

Most of them are college educated, a much higher percentage than the general population. But spending four years getting your mind conditioned to think in a disorderly way is not what makes you smart.

The proof of their intelligence is their willingness to challenge the status quo they grew up in. They are not passively allowing the same folly they learned to be infused into their children. I don’t think the establishment either appreciates that or recognizes the intelligence required to do it.

Another proof of their intelligence is the vastly higher scores their children get on the tests designed by that establishment.

However, home schooling is not what it used to be. Publishing companies have discovered the market and flooded it with stultifying, cheesy, soul-denying crap, along with some very good materials.

I am counting on the home school mom to apply her intelligence and independence over the next few years.

But sometimes her humility becomes lack of confidence and fear. And that is her biggest enemy. The world we live in has rejected Christ, rejected the Image of God, rejected the gospel, and spent 150 years trying to build a system based on those rejections.

It has not worked – and nowhere less than in education.

It has not worked.

Please, Mrs. Home School Mom, do not lose your nerve.

Yes, continue to be humble and teachable and eager for wisdom. But don’t seek the easy way out and don’t sell your children short.

Follow, instead, the counsel of Solomon. Let it be your guiding principle. Let it be the fuel that drives your instruction.

Get Wisdom.

After all, there is nothing your child needs more and there is no better source for him to get it.

It’s natural, just like your incomparable love for your child. And that natural, God-given love that you bear for your children is the last hope for freedom in this country in which God is looking for ten just people.

16 Responses

  1. Awesome, encouraging post. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. And as a second-generation homeschool mom, let me remind all the first-generation homeschool moms here that it isn’t all up to you! Your children and other younger moms you inspire will pick up the torch as you lay it aside and take it still higher up and further in, by the grace of God.

  3. Thank you for your encouragement Andrew but mostly your affirming that starved inking deep inside that knows this is right in light of so many who tell me different.

    I am a single mom barely hanging on financially so we can continue to home school. I work odd hours (nights and weekends and holidays-the hours no one else wants) so that I can still get my boys to their classes and teach them myself and provide for them an education that is honoring to HIM and equips them well for what is ahead.

    I am so grateful that HE makes a way for us but at times so fearful that it is about to end as finances are so tight. My life frustrates many as they see the answer to my problem as putting these boys in public school to get a 8-5 job- but that is not an option!

    My boys WILL have an education that honors God with their mind and that equips them to be soldiers for the cross.

    They have plenty of non christian friends and its not that I am trying to protect them from the world as much as I am equipping them to stand and prosper spiritually in it and be leaders for those who want to too. I want for my boys what public school cannot offer them, an education that inspires their love of learning, equips them theologically in every subject and is specific to the “bent” deep inside them. Public schools breaks the spirit of so many young ones in order to keep order by conformity.

    I want my boys to walk in the freedom and life HE created them for. Please pray we can find a way to go on financially. I work long hours but at miscellaneous jobs and we choose to do without (vacations and so many extras) just so that we can go on a little longer. Sometimes i feel that except for the Lord, i am fighting this battle alone, But when you choose to make public your strong convictions for discipleship it feels like you are coming along side to fight the battle with me and I don’t feel as alone anymore. 🙂

    You inspire me to go on for the sake of these boys who are moving daily towards HIS purposes for HIS glory. I never know if one more day is all we have and then we wake up the next and HE has given us another. What a joy to follow HIM in our education as we learn together the wonders of HIS creation and HIS ways in all subjects.

  4. Reading this blog always makes me think and feeds my soul. Today, it made me feel valuable. Thank you for that gift.
    I feel renewed as I begin to come out of the summer mode and back into preparing for a new year.
    May our homes be fertile fields in which our children grow in God’s grace, virtue, wisdom, and strength!
    May God bless all our efforts.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Andrew!

    I’ve often felt that we’re the Irish monasteries of our day, under attack from the barbarians, but doing our best to hold the line, by the grace of God.

    As one who is currently in the midst of preparing a curriculum to be released very soon, I want to comfort you that some of us writing curriculum aren’t of the school-as-factory mindset. We’re working really hard to build in as much liberty to this as possible, while giving moms a base on which they can build confidently.

  6. Oh, and what about the homeschooling dads who make the homeschooling possible, even if they work too hard to contribute much to the actual educational part of it?

    I heard Doug Wilson mention in a talk yesterday that he’s observed some heavily matriarchal homeschool cultures in this country. Hmmmmm . . .

    • Cindy,

      Yes, absolutely!

      I also fear the development of a matriarchal home school culture and I’m glad to hear the Mr. Wilson expressed that concern.

      If we replace the nanny state with the man still tied to the apron strings, we’ll be better because he won’t have as much power, but we sure won’t be where we need to be.

  7. Unfortunately, just about the time we seem to start getting it right we run out of children! I’ve got my third going off to college in a couple of weeks, but I do still have a seventh grader at home to practice on. 🙂

    As one of those education professionals I hope I’m retaining more of the homeschool mom spirit you describe–and I will keep it in mind for this year!

    Finally, don’t over-demonize corporate America. Yes, in its largest entities it can be all the bad things you describe, but I heard an interesting characterization of it by Rush Limbaugh yesterday. He makes the point that it is the businesses that provide work and products and tax revenue for a community, and when government steps in and takes over (as with GM), the future prospects are grim.

    I’ve actually contemplated incorporation in recent years–I know at least one of your Apprentices is a corporation! 🙂

    • Cindy,

      Three good points. I’ve got only one left in high school and am anxious to see if I can teach him anything.

      My sense is that you are keeping that spirit, as evidenced by your humble response to my post.

      As to corporate America, I don’t demonize them at all. However, I think the legal fiction of the corporation was a bad idea and that, from what I understand, even if it wasn’t certain Supreme Court decisions made it one.

      My problem is not at all with business or even government. Both are wonderful ideas. My problem is when either of them lose their place in the order of things.

      My problem is with centralized power. We live in a world run by the absentee landlord, incapable of making sound decisions.

      As to actually incorporating, it’s well worth contemplating, but only because of the tax code. To incorporate forces you under a governance structure established by the IRS, though of course you can manage it with a lot of wisdom.

      However, as soon as you incorporate you’ve handed some degree of control over to others and you have to be very careful to resist the temptation to grow for growth’s sake.

      CiRCE is incorporated and we’ve had a wonderful board, but I wish we didn’t need to incorporate at all.

  8. Andrew, thank you for your continued support of homeschooling. Far too often, we homeschool moms find ourselves in No Man’s Land–despised by both career women and the Christian private schools.

    So many really great homeschool moms are swimming against the current and most of the time feel like they are drowning.

    On behalf of all us who are wildly flaying our arms around, trying to keep our heads above water, thank you.

  9. Thank you! I’m going to print this out and read it everytime I wonder why I am doing this homeschooing thing and as I continue to fight against my own knee-jerk Post-modern, Post-human upbringing. So I’ll be re-reading it a lot!!!!

  10. She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar.
    She rises while it is yet night
    and provides food for her household…

    Proverb 31:14-15

  11. Thank you for your encouraging and inspiring words in this post! Rest assured. We home school moms are trying to seek wisdom for our calling. I receive so much from organizations like CIRCE, blogs like Quiddity, and publications like Mars Hill Audio…in addition to the best source: God’s revelation and the Scriptures. I received a mediocre high school education, as well as a bachelor’s degree, from public institutions. When my first daughter was born, I wanted so much more for her. I wanted her to see her existence through the prism of Jesus Christ. I wanted her to seek wisdom, beauty, and truth. Hence, my decision to educate my children at home. Susan Wise Bauer and Laura Berquist pointed me toward the Christian, Classical tradition. My daughter has excelled academically. (She’s 12 years old, and working at a 7th grade level. She scored a 99 percent on both her core and comprehensive Iowa Basic Test scores in May!!!!) This is a blessing, but the best blessing is to watch her grow and develop through our conversations about Christ, justice, beauty, and the meaning of a truly good life. In addition, I have been led to read the writers that I never did before: Homer; Aristotle, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, and more. So, stay out there, and keep giving us the courage to stand strong at our outposts. We receive your dispatches with great enthusiasm. (Sorry this was so long….I was brimming with gratitude after reading this post!)

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