I first heard of Sam Blumenfeld in the mid-eighties soon after meeting Dr. Rushdoony. We had donated a car to Chalcedon. As part of his thank-you to us, Rush gifted us with books. Since he knew we were already homeschooling, Sam Blumenfeld’s books were among those we received. I read his book NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education and How to Tutor. Soon afterward, I purchased a copy of Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers. Two of my three children learned to read with this book and I have used it successfully with a man who was functionally illiterate and improved his reading capability.1
Sam became a giant in my eyes, as were most of those who were affiliated with Chalcedon. My appetite for discerning how the Word of God applied to all areas was voracious and I was given much to eat and digest. Because I respected Rush, I was very interested in learning from the people he respected.
A number of years later, to demonstrate our appreciation for and support of Chalcedon, we hosted a fundraising barbeque to help with the final stages of a construction project to move the Chalcedon Christian School and Chalcedon Chapel from a rented facility to Chalcedon’s property. We invited numerous people well-known to Chalcedon supporters to join us. I most definitely wanted Sam Blumenfeld to be among them because, like Sam, Chalcedon was well known for its emphasis on Christian day schools and home schools.
I discovered he was going to be in Northern California giving a presentation a month or two prior to our event. My husband and I attended that meeting and afterwards I introduced myself and told him of my affiliation with Chalcedon. Standing alongside him, I realized that I was taller than he. The first words out of my mouth were, “I had no idea you were so short!” The dumbfounded look on my husband’s face demonstrated his utter embarrassment. My comment was not intended to be an insult at all. To me, Sam Blumenfeld was a giant of a man, and I had assumed him to be the same in physical stature.
To my husband’s amazement, Sam understood what I meant and received my remarks with a good laugh, commenting on his height. He agreed to attend our fundraiser, and we became friends that day. My husband still loves to recount the fact that only his wife could tell a man that he was short and endear herself to him!
“You Should Write!”
Every year Sam would come to California to spend time in Vallecito at Chalcedon. He would record some Easy Chair lectures (what we now refer to as podcasts) and spend time in discussion with Rush and his wife, Dorothy. Sam credited Rush with bringing him to the faith. These visits were a combination of business and personal appreciation. He looked at Rush (as so many of us do) as his father in the faith.
Sam and I would meet up at these times and have lunch together in Palo Alto, CA, not far from where I live. Our conversations lasted for hours over lunch at The Good Earth Restaurant, a health food establishment unique to its day. It was during one of those encounters that he told me that I should write about my life as a homeschool mom. I laughed at the thought, wondering who would be interested in what I had to say.
Sam was adamant that other home educators could benefit from hearing from a wife and mother in the trenches, living out her faith in the context of educating her children. Eventually, I did begin to write and as of this writing, I have seven books in print, with more on the way. In a recent conversation with Sam who was failing in health, I thanked him for getting me to write. We joked that I was only four books shy of the eleven he had written. He instructed me to “stay healthy” so I could get my ideas into print.
As publishing coordinator at Chalcedon I have typed, proofread, typeset, and coordinated the publishing of Dr. Rushdoony’s books as well as those of others. After Rush’s death, when we were reprinting his Intellectual Schizophrenia, we asked Sam to write the foreword, which he was very happy to do. He felt that along with The Messianic Character of American Education, Intellectual Schizophrenia was tremendously important in launching the Christian education movement.
Sam and I were already long-time colleagues by this point and had a good working relationship. When the book made it into print I received a very serious phone call from him. He was calling my attention to the fact that I had improperly used the word “forward” instead of the proper word “foreword” when it came to his contribution. I can still hear him correcting me, “Andrea, what I wrote was a word before the author’s words. Therefore, it is a fore word. What you used has the meaning of moving forward, as in ‘forward march’!”
I was embarrassed and dismayed about this error. I made the comment that mistakes do happen and I was sure many would not even notice. That wasn’t good enough for Sam. “No, no, Andrea. You are going to fix it. My name is on that and I want it to be correct. I’m sure you’ll figure out what to do.”
He never raised his voice. Not once was he condescending. He just maintained that I needed to make things right. And I did. On the original copies, we placed the correct word (typeset on to a label) over the incorrect word. We handled the master file so that now when you purchase a hard copy or a digital one, you have the correct word at the top of Sam’s remarks. To this day, I always double-check that word in a book I am managing. You’d be surprised how many books make it into print with that mistake. Thanks to Sam, I will never make that one again!
His Past and Future Influence
Sam Blumenfeld never married. He was an old-school gentleman who was content with his calling, his friendships, and spending time as an avid reader, writer, and lecturer. I will remember him most as an unpretentious man who, although he had no children of his own, can be credited as a generous uncle who shared out of his abundance with others. How many children have been placed on a proper footing with learning to read the “old way” by the use of intensive phonics? Here was a man who deeply cared that young people would not be deprived of the ability to read the Bible and who continually encouraged parents to remove their children from statist institutions and helped them to achieve competence as teachers.
Not unlike Dr. Rushdoony who has left a potent legacy, Sam Blumenfeld’s works will be the tools more and more families use to break the bonds of statist dependency and forge ahead in building the Kingdom of God.
Recently, I have embarked on a plan (still in the pilot stages) of using Sam’s books Alpha Phonics and How to Tutor as evangelistic tools. With the sheer quantity of people who struggle to read, along with many in our land for whom English is not their first language, these books can provide a way to assist others in learning to read phonetically. In the not too distant future, I will begin a series with women, those preparing to teach their own children, and those whose children are grown, teaching them how to utilize Sam’s materials to be helpful in their homes and in their community. The result of this successful tutoring will be the presentation of a Bible to their students once they can actually read!
When I heard that Sam was dying of cancer, I called to thank him for the huge benefit he had been to me, personally, and to my family. I pointed out that for a man who never had children of his own, there were thousands upon thousands of people whose “Uncle Sam” had assisted in opening up the door to literacy for them. God granted Sam a good many years and he used them to the betterment of others. I am a better person because I had the honor of interacting with him as a friend and witnessed his model of tireless work to further the Kingdom of God.
1. This man was a karate instructor of mine, and not a believer. When I learned he struggled with reading, I offered to help. What made Alpha Phonics a good tool in this case was the fact that it did not have cartoons or silly diversions usually found in early childhood readers. It was just straight phonics. Years later, this man found me on facebook, thanking me for helping him become a good reader. He also shared with me that he had come to the faith!
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].