The Biblical basis for home schooling is to be found in Deuteronomy 6, in which God commands parents to educate their children in the love and admonition of the Lord. Understood in those terms, Christian home schoolers have realized that primary and secondary education taught at home could not possibly be what the secular schools were teaching. Godless education is so contrary to Biblical principles that Christian parents have been forced to provide their children with an education in harmony with God's commandments. This was a decision made on religious grounds. But it was also a political decision, truly revolutionary in its rejection of the most important institution of the secular state: the government education system. The very existence of home schooling undermines the statist claim that children are owned by the state, to be educated to serve the state. In short, Christian home schooling is a quiet political revolution that seriously undermines statism.
Note that the emphasis is on Christian home schooling as opposed to home schooling in general. The Unschooling Movement, for example, is libertarian in its philosophy. It rejects the state, but not on Biblical grounds. Its founder, John Holt, believed in home schooling because it was not only a better way to educate children, but because it asserted the primacy of parents' rights in opposition to state compulsion. It is virtually impossible to home school without becoming to some degree anti-statist.
There are all kinds of reasons why non-Christians turn to home schooling. Common sense tells them that the public schools have become so intolerable, that anyone with any true concern for the health and welfare of their children will want to take them out. But when it comes to higher education, these home schooling families will send their children to any number of well-known secular colleges and universities with their liberal curricula.
However, this is not the case with Christian home schoolers who are quite apprehensive about sending their children to our well-known pagan schools of higher learning, no matter how prestigious their reputations. Many Christian home schoolers are sending their youngsters to such well-known Christian institutions as Pensacola Christian College (PCC), Bob Jones University (BJU), Pat Robertson's Regent University, Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and the more secular Hillsdale College. In fact, both PCC and BJU have become the largest vendors of textbooks and packaged curricula at home school conventions, and they are aggressively trying to recruit home schoolers to attend their campuses by giving out catalogs, videos, and brochures.
Another Christian Alternative
But perhaps the most interesting and promising development in the Christian home school movement is the founding of Patrick Henry College in 1997 by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) under the leadership of its president, Michael Farris. According to their Mission Statement: "The mission of Patrick Henry College is to train Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless Biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of American founding."
In an amazingly short time, a campus has been built at Purcellville, Virginia, about 50 miles from Washington, D.C. It was all created by the contributions of patrons, making the school debt free. Recently they were able to add considerable adjoining acreage to the campus in anticipation of future growth. No money was solicited from the big liberal foundations or the government. Everything was bought and paid for by Christians who were thrilled by Farris' vision of an institution that is going to have an impact on our government in Washington.
In September 2000, the college opened its doors to its first class of 90 students. Michael Farris resigned as president of HSLDA to become president of the college. Farris is the new breed of activist Christian leader who understands what must be done if we are to restore freedom and Biblical values to our nation. He is an ordained Baptist minister and a lawyer. He and his wife Vickie were married in 1971 and have ten children. (Home schoolers tend to have large families.) They started home schooling in 1982, which led Farris to found the Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 to protect home schoolers from the tyranny of government.
Farris has built a brilliant legal career defending the rights of home schoolers. He has argued constitutional cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, in US Circuit Courts of Appeal, and in the appellate courts. He knows the legal system inside out. He didn't go to Harvard or Yale for his law degree. He got his from Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Washington. He is also a prolific writer. Recently, PHC sent out a handsome brochure depicting what Patrick Henry College will be like ten years from now: 18 major buildings, a School of Law, a School of American Culture, and a huge library. That is the kind of creative vision that has come out of the home school movement and given home schoolers a sense of the possibilities and opportunities inherent in educational freedom based on Biblical principles. The spirit is definitely postmillennial in that it visualizes Christian victory as its long-range goal.
There is no doubt that the Christian home school movement needed the kind of leadership that HSLDA has provided, leadership that knows how to mobilize Christian resources and expectations in order to build new institutions and safeguard educational freedom. It has become obvious that new institutions are needed if Biblical religion and learning are to flourish in the years ahead. This is very much in line with what R. J. Rushdoony anticipated would inevitably arise out of the home school movement.
A major reason why Patrick Henry College was created is to be found in HSLDA's lobbying work on Capitol Hill. Over the years, Farris has become a well-recognized lobbyist for the home school movement. He and other HSLDA members have been monitoring federal legislation and maintaining friendly relations with key Senate and House offices. They have learned that many of the conservative Christian legislators need all the help they can get from other conservatives. That is why the college will provide apprenticeships for students so that they can work in the offices of conservative congressmen who need them.
Another Victory for Christian Education
An example of the effectiveness of home schoolers when challenged by pending legislation was given in 1994, when an amendment to HR 6 was introduced by ultra-liberal George Miller of California, which would have required all students to be taught by subject-certified teachers. This amendment caught the attention of an alert home schooler. The word got out, and home schoolers all over America besieged Congress with phone calls, faxes, and letters. Over one million calls shut down the Congress switchboard. Needless to say, the amendment was rejected. Only George Miller voted for it.
What home education has proven is that a parent need not be a certified professional in order to be able to teach well. The academic performance of home schoolers is testimony to the effectiveness of parental teaching. According to Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute:
Twenty years of research show that the home educated typically score at the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized achievement tests 15 to 30 points above public-school peers. Numerous nationwide and state-specific studies corroborate these findings. Those planning to go to college are outscoring public-school graduates on the ACT and SAT tests. Interestingly, family income and whether parents are certified teachers has little relationship to the children's achievement.
From all reports we have read, home-educated students do very well in college, mainly because they have learned the basic academic skills well and are self-disciplined in their study habits. Also, home schoolers have the freedom to investigate all of the alternatives to college attendance. There are now many accredited schools that offer bachelor's and master's degrees, and even law degrees, by home study. Computer technology has made home study a very convenient and effective way to earn a degree in virtually any subject area. There are even source books that list programs available off-campus. In other words, it is no longer necessary to sit in an ivy-covered building a thousand miles from home just to listen to a young instructor repeat knowledge that can be found in a textbook.
A couple of years ago, a home-schooling friend of mine in California called to ask what I thought of his sending one of his sons to a college in the east like Harvard. I told him that his son would be forced to spend four years reading all the wrong books and, therefore, would not have the time to read all the right books. Why waste four years? Keep him at home, I said, and have him read all the right books. My friend liked the idea.
Today, a college degree is necessary if you want to become a member of the cognitive elite and enter one of the professional humanist establishments. It provides the needed credential. It is the escalator to buttoned-down success. However, many a college dropout, like Bill Gates, has found college boring and has decided to enter the world of activity and entrepreneurship. It's risky, but the rewards are incalculable.
If we look down the road to the unpredictable future, we can discern some possibilities. If we look at the results of the last presidential election, the nation seems to be divided right down the middle. But if you look at a map of how the counties voted, you get a totally different impression. Such a map was indeed published after the last election and it showed the counties that Bush won in red and the counties Gore won in blue. The map showed a sea of red with islands of blue, mostly concentrated on the big cities on the two coasts. What it showed was that the large cities with large minority voters went for the Democrats and that all of those counties in fly-over country voted Republican.
What it means is that the Democrats have a stranglehold on the minority vote. Blacks, for example, voted over 80 percent for Gore. In other words, the Democrats have become more and more dependent on their need to control the votes of the minority in order to achieve power. The issue is not race, but strategy.
What does it mean for the home-school movement? It means that a small organized minority can tip the scales in favor of the conservatives. One of the reasons why black voters in Florida had so much trouble in the voting booths is because many of them were functionally illiterate and could not figure out what to do when they were in the booth. In other words, driving bus loads of functional illiterates to the polls is no guarantee that they will vote as requested.
The Christian Elite
On the other hand, home schoolers may be a small minority, but they are all well educated and know what to do, not only in the voting booths, but also in the halls of their legislators. Also, they have good Christian leaders who have learned how to work politically in the system. It is to the credit of Michael Farris and his colleagues that they understand both the need for education and the need for intelligent, well-planned political activism. What home schoolers are creating, in fact, is a Christian cognitive elite to compete with the secular cognitive elite coming out of the Ivy League universities. We are at the beginning of the creation of such a Christian cognitive elite, which fifty years from now may be capable changing America dramatically.
We certainly know how successful a small, dedicated group can be if it knows how to target its action. We have seen how one man, a liberal Republican, was able to change control of the United States Senate from Republicans to Democrats by becoming an Independent. It was a targeted move by a Senator who waited for the right time to make the right move a move that would have the maximum impact. It is a lesson worth learning.
- Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Samuel L. Blumenfeld (1927–2015), a former Chalcedon staffer, authored a number of books on education, including NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, How to Tutor, Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers, and Homeschooling: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children.
He spent much of his career investigating the decline in American literacy, the reasons for the high rate of learning disabilities in American children, the reasons behind the American educational establishment’s support for sex and drug education, and the school system's refusal to use either intensive phonics in reading instruction and memorization in mathematics instruction. He lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad and was internationally recognized as an expert in intensive, systematic phonics. His writings appeared in such diverse publications as Home School Digest, Reason, Education Digest, Boston Magazine, Vital Speeches of the Day, Practical Homeschooling, Esquire, and many others.