Hi! This page is put here for some of the “deeper thinkers” in our audience. The main thrust of our website is not about getting into debates. However, there are a handful of issues which arise within the Christian homeschooling movement that I’d like to address on our website for the sake of those you want to know our views on these things. This page mainly addresses some ideas found within the Charlotte Mason philosophy.
If this page is not for you, simply click the back button on your browser and carry on to the rest of our website according to your interests!
Now, for the folks who like to chew over some deep questions as you sort through homeschooling options, here we go with some Q &A:
1. Do habits of godly character sufficiently form as a result of human effort?
No. Romans 8:8, Galatians 5:22-25, Isaiah 64:6, Galatians 2:21-3:11 all come to mind. Godly character traits, while yes, are to be taught by parents to children, is really a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the lives of the believers in Jesus Christ. It is God’s power, not ours, that makes the good habits to sufficiently form.
God doesn’t want to fix our old nature. He provides a brand new one instead.
The challenge often faced is with the attitudes, a willingness and desire to reject wrong and follow the right. It is my belief that this willingness and desire will be limited unless the person has also surrendered their will to the Lord Jesus Christ and God has changed their heart. This happens when a person experiences rebirth, becoming new in Christ. While a child may learn behaviors which look nice to people around them, inside their heart could still be an attitude of unwillingness, grudging, or only selfish motivation to get a desired reward.
Christian parents/teachers, you can teach right from wrong but you cannot make a child “good” – only God has the power to change the heart!
Getting a “Good Education” Means What?
2. Is there any person in the Bible who was educated in an ungodly way but it didn’t “wreck him for life”?
Yes. Example: Daniel, Moses
Yes, if we have the opportunity, of course we should aim to give our children an education that points them to God their Creator. But if that doesn’t happen, or if we use a different method than our Christian friend uses for her kids, it (“the way a person is educated”) should not be thought of as “wrecking” the child “for life” (a phrase commonly heard among “Charlotte Mason” followers).
Is there anywhere in the Bible where it would teach us that education choices determine our salvation? Does education carry spiritual power to transform our life through our teacher/parent?
No. Apart from faith in Jesus Christ, there is NO Saviour. Education is never a saviour. Teaching parents are never a saviour. The Word of God and the Spirit of God (not the spirit of a loving person) transforms our lives. (1 Peter 1:23-24, Romans 10:17, John 6:65, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
Therefore, education methods/styles/approaches aren’t what “wrecks a person”.
(That truth is very freeing to realize.)
While we humans value education for careers/work and relationships, in a spiritual sense, Paul was willing to count his high quality religious education all worthless in comparison to simply knowing Christ Jesus as His Lord and Saviour! (Philippians 3:4-9)
While education is an important aspect to life, don’t cling to “education” so much that you worship it and it becomes your “life”. Education is not life. Jesus is Life! (John 14:6, 1 John 5:12)
On a related topic, is homeschooling a Christian mandate or is it OK for Christians to put their children into a public education system? I wrote about this a few years ago and have reposted that article here.
About Valuing Imagination and Vivid Literature…
3. According to the Bible, what does God think about the value of human’s thoughts and imagination?
a) Imagination can be marred/with error (Genesis 8:21)
b) God’s thoughts are much higher than ours. (Isaiah 55:8-11)
c) Human wisdom is so much lower than God’s wisdom to the point that it looks like foolishness. (1 Cor. 1:20-2:5)
d) Not all thoughts of the Christian are right. He commands us to bring our thoughts to Him. (2 Cor. 10:5, Romans 16:19)
If the language is vivid but the content of the literature is not honouring to God, then it is best to avoid that piece, even if it means you study a plainer, less vivid novel. Priorities need to be on content of what is taught, not as much on how it is presented.
Inspiration of Human Writings
4. Beyond the Bible, are human writings “God-breathed” (inspired and authoritative in the same sense as the Scripture)? Should we claim that our thoughts, methods, and writings are directives from God for people to obey like Scripture?
No. God’s Name and God’s Word is exalted above all else. (Psalm 138:2b)
Therefore, someone’s ideas about how to do something is NOT “God’s directions from God” unless those ideas are originally from Scripture. Here is where we need to be careful and discern between mixtures of godly principles and ungodly-but-spiritually-sounding ideas. We also must be careful never to elevate a person to the level of infallibility or contribute to a cult-like following. Christians are equal with one another and God has already revealed everything we need to know for “life and godliness” in the Bible. (2 Peter 1:3) (That means that there isn’t a new secret or method or idea revealed from God to a teacher that will make us more godly.) Anything else of benefit to our natural life is natural discovery with the talents and opportunities He created us to have.
Should a Child be Considered an Adult?
5. According to the Bible, is there a difference between a child and an adult?
Yes. While they are both persons, God sees them as different stages of maturity. A child sees the world from a different perspective and responds in a different way of thinking than an adult. Example: 1 Corinthians 13:11.
Children tend to be more trusting, more humble, less wise (wisdom grows with age and experience), more foolish, and if left to himself he can cause shame to his parents (Proverbs 29:15) and he needs his parents (a grown man in contrast, is told to leave his parents). See also point #10.
Therefore, since there is a difference between children and adults, it is quite alright to provide child-level learning materials to children. There is no Biblical principle to avoid doing so. We do not need to expect children to think like adults until they grow older.
6. Does the Bible teach that everything in God’s creation is created with spiritual value? (In other words, is the sacred and secular to be blended together in our thinking?)
No, not everything. Yes, God is to be honoured in everything we do, every day, not just in church on Sunday. But there is also an apparent separation that some things are NOT set aside as special and sacred. Example: Food has no spiritual value. (Colossians 2:23, 1 Corinthians 8:8). If everything (e.g. math textbooks, small engine repair manuals, English grammar worksheets) is to be spiritualized, then what is left to be “set aside” as sacred?
7. According to the Bible, does the Holy Spirit’s role in people’s lives include the education of things like math and other natural discoveries?
God creates us with natural talents and varying abilities to learn. He provides opportunities for us to discover some things. He gives instincts to animals and instructs people in a general sense (Isaiah 28:26, 29). He instructs people in the ways they should go. He cares for us every day in every way but…
If God wanted us to think of the Holy Spirit as Someone who directs a child’s math or spelling lessons, He would have made that clear in the Bible (which He didn’t). And if the Holy Spirit working within a person is how humans are educated or discover things, then…
- Why were there lots of inventions before the Father gives the Spirit to the believers on earth at the time of Pentecost in the early church? (The power of the Holy Spirit indwelling people constantly was a special gift given at that time in history and given only to believers in Jesus Christ.)
- Why can non-believers obtain a secular education when they do not have the Spirit within them? (Romans 8:7-9). (The explanation that I’ve heard is based on a false doctrine of universal salvation – the idea of a redeemed world where everyone has God in them already or the idea that God is in everything – which is not upheld in the Bible.) My conclusion is that it shows instead that education is NOT an inspired aspect to life.
- Is it not like making our own image of God if we try to attach attributes to God that He has not revealed in the Bible? (I think He has described Himself sufficiently in His Word.)
- What about those who are not educated – like the ones in Jonah 4 who did not know their left hand from their right hand? God loved those uneducated ones so much that He showed mercy to the whole city. If the Spirit’s role is to educate things like lefts and rights, why does this not appear as a demonstration in the Bible?
I think it is wiser to be silent on how to describe God’s character and role wherever the Scripture is also silent on such matters.
Therefore, to think of God as being concerned with whether or not we eat bananas or strawberries or how we write an essay or scientific article or whether we wear a short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirt, I think, is teaching a view of God that is not seen in the Scripture. Yes, He cares for us personally but I don’t think He is worried about every little choice we choose based on human opinions but rather that He delights in giving us freedom in variety. There are “rights and wrongs” for moral character and doctrinal/Scriptural-based issues but not for everything else.
Who Wrote the Curriculum Resource?
8. Should we be concerned if a leader of a philosophy has a questionable spiritual testimony or source of thoughts and then seeks to give out spiritual knowledge to train others?
Yes. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:6-8, 1 Timothy 6:20, 2 Corinthians 7:1. We apply these thoughts to homeschooling and also things like Sunday School/children’s ministry resources. Many times when something about a spiritual/religious resource “pokes” us the wrong way, we try to find out answers to 3 critical questions:
a) What does this producer/author believe about Who Jesus Is? (e.g. what is his/her understanding of God and is it correct according to the Bible)
b) What do they think about What the Gospel Is/How to Be Saved? and
c) What Do They Believe About God’s Word?
One reason is for my own sake (I don’t want to start accepting something that might lead me away from truth) and the other reason is that if I’m promoting it to someone, I want to make sure that if my trusting audience goes to find more of what I just promoted, that they won’t be led astray. Nothing produced by humans is perfect of course, (including me and my viewpoints), but checking those 3 questions helps me a lot. And then, if something is “good” but I have reservations about some other things, I can mention that stuff if it is important or ignore it more so because the main questions are taken care of.
With point a), I would have reservations on using materials that show a flippant, irreverent view of God. It includes avoiding Bible-related materials from authors who do not uphold that Jesus is fully God, those who believe that Jesus has come again under another name of a religious leader, or those who do not believe that God actually came in human flesh (2 John 7-11). I would also avoid those which portray “Jesus” as speaking mystically from paintings or trances, or present a God who is to be “breathed in” with body positions since I see this as a clear contradiction to the Jesus of the Bible. This means that materials based on contemplative prayer, visualization techniques, divination, and commonly-called “spiritual formation” are not ones that I want to use. (For more information on what those terms mean, check the website of Lighthouse Trails Research or similar.)
Examples: Charlotte Mason’s “Great Recognition” spiritual experience/awakening sounds very strange – see points # 10 and 11. So do Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” books. So do some of Anne Voscamp’s writings. I’m not planning to write specifically about these examples but you can research these things yourself if you are interested further.
With point b), I would have reservations if the material (or linked sources to it) taught that good works and good habits save a person from sin. That is “another gospel” than what the Bible teaches. (The true gospel is repentance of sin in turning to God and faith in Jesus Christ and all He has done on our behalf.) I would also avoid those which elevate leaders as a saviour or mediator since we have direct access to God through Jesus alone. Galatians 1:6-12, 2 Corinthians 11:4.
Example: A variety of homeschooling curriculum on the market today has this. I’m not going to name examples here but simply admit here that such exists so check whatever you are planning to use, especially for “character education”.
With point c), I would have reservations if just a paraphrase is being used rather than a more accurate translation. I’d also have concerns if the author doesn’t believe that ALL Scripture is for us today but instead wants to only read the “red letters” in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is fully God and He inspired the whole Bible (2 Timothy 3:14-17). It isn’t to say I wouldn’t use a resource that has teaches this perspective; but if I did, I’d want to acknowledge my concerns with it to my children/teens with open communication.
Example: At the time of writing this, I can’t remember any homeschool curriculum that fits these concerns but I’m sure there likely is some out there, especially for older grades. Although by that stage, reading and discussing materials that are controversial is sometimes beneficial.
Reminder: This question # 8 is about spiritual instruction. It is not about school subject instruction if there is an absence of religious training in it. To clarify with an example, we do not see any problem with using secular math curriculum authored by a non-Christian (provided that the pages do not heavily promote anti-Biblical ideas). Instead, our concerns there turn to personal preferences as to how math is taught, if the methods are as helpful as other options. The same idea is with shopping for groceries – we don’t have a problem buying products made by non-Christians. I add this note here because some homeschoolers are concerned if a secular product is used for any core curriculum resource but we do not share that viewpoint.
Teaching and Self-Taught
9. Can we spoil learning by teaching a child, instead of allowing children to discover things on their own?
No. Teaching is upheld in the Bible as something that is encouraged and admirable IF what is being taught (the content) is good. See previous point #8 for some verses or search your concordance for words such as “teach”, “train”, “taught”. (Self-discovery will naturally teach some things as well and that is fine. In other words, teaching and self-discovery can compliment each other – it doesn’t have to be a debate about one versus another – both can be in a good balance.)
10. What is “natural”? After all, many natural products are good for us so what about just allowing the “natural” to “take over” education? And what is the spiritual position of a natural person?
The Bible indicates that the heart of a young child is naturally eager/mouldable to accept the things of God in the sense that they have (in general) greater faith and humility than an older person (Matthew 18:2-6, Prov. 20:11, 1 Peter 2:2-3). To balance this, the Bible also states that foolishness and immaturity are key characteristics of natural childhood (Prov. 22:15, 1 Cor. 13:11, Job 12:12). “Natural” life isn’t always defined as beautiful, clean, and without blemishes – sin, death, disease, rust, mistakes, and other things are “natural” too. Nature has been marred. Imagination has been marred too (Genesis 8:21, Isaiah 53:6, 1 John 2:15-17) so if something that is natural is also uncontrolled, there could easily be a problem unless that natural desire or accomplishment is held to a higher standard than just “whatever one desires to do/study/write/read/spend times at” (Prov. 29:15, 22:6). (The higher standard we have been given is the Word of God and the principles for how to live found in it.) And there are two other aspects to consider: the natural person cannot really understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). And the natural person cannot do enough good to reach up to God’s standards. (Romans 8:5-8, Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:20) He/she must have the Holy Spirit living within him/her (Romans 8:1-4, 9).
Since salvation is an individual decision, we can see that God is not a kind of energy that can flow between parents and children, imparting some sort of spiritual power for learning more. You will never find that take on “co-operating with divine teaching” in the Bible but it is a method that is found in some of the eastern non-Christian religions and it seems that Miss Mason, as one example of an education leader (there are others), was sadly influenced by these ideas. (I say this because of how she explains good/effective parents are to teach their children by somehow having a human spirit and Holy Spirit linking and co-operating for divine teaching. (She also seems to indicate that it’s our human efforts that brings about salvation from sin and peace – a “good works” gospel.) As an example, I read some of her writings here (2018: https://www.amblesideschools.com/manual/Charlotte-Mason/chapter-25-great-recognition-required-parents)
Miss Mason might have been a very nice lady with some great ideas for teachers and homeschoolers. She may have been a top teacher in her day. Please understand that my critique of her ideas is not against her as a person but rather is in a disagreement of theology since it involves what I believe can be a hindrance to real Christian growth. (If she were alive today, I would try to communicate these things with her but all I can do is to communicate my concerns with those who follow her ways.) Sadly, Charlotte Mason seemed to be captivated by a contemplative perspective for some spiritual matters. It is well-known that she was attracted to St. Teresa of Avila’s notions expressed in the “Interior Castle”. Contemplative spirituality has become more popular, even in evangelical, protestant groups, and this is something that we are very concerned about. While sometimes homeschoolers “follow Charlotte Mason” only to a certain extent and then turn away from her theological differences, it seems to be a challenge sometimes to separate her school philosophy from her spiritual beliefs. Because they seem to be meshed together in her writings, it is easier for the non-Biblical philosophy of contemplative spirituality just to slip in dangerously into Christian homes. To us, it is more concerning than simply a difference between evolution and creation but rather, it has the potential to adversely affect how one ultimately seeks the Lord. For a further explanation on why the Bible does not agree with contemplative spirituality and the background to this, please read the book “Castles in the Sand” by Carolyn Greene (Canadian author) – the castle refers to the “Interior Castle” – and/or see this booklet by the same author describing St. Teresa of Avila: https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=22685 (Occasionally, we have had this book in stock or you can find it easily by searching for it online.)
Methods Such as Living Books and Twaddle
11. Is it possible to hinder the Holy Spirit’s work in a child’s heart by the styles of how we teach math, history, literature, or separate things into subjects, etc.? If we choose living books (exciting books) instead of duller books, does God work “better” to teach our children’s hearts; can we repel Him if we use “twaddle”? And is God the Teacher or are we?
We need to remember that our human power over another person is never equal to or hindering to God’s power. Are we stronger than He? No. He is Sovereign. Even with the account of Joseph hated by his brothers, it was declared, “…you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20a NKJV) And we also need to remember that the idea of “living books” compared to “dull” is just a human idea, not something that is ever found in the Bible to describe non-Scripture… other than perhaps the exception of the king in Esther’s day getting someone to read him a book to try to get him to sleep! J That book was supposed to be dull enough to cure insomnia! As I read a bit of Charlotte Mason’s “Great Recognition” experience when she studied a painting in Spain, it seems that somehow, she concluded that a painting of someone’s human idea was equal to the Bible’s authority in thinking that it taught her from God. (Consider this: Could/Is it possible that a human painting, even one found in a religious building, express something that is not correct??? My opinion is that this painting expressed a fair amount of theological error so why trust it to be a foundation?) My understanding is that from that painting, Miss Mason drew her conclusions on why living books (such as what would be in a list of “Great Books”) are needed in order for God to clearly teach a child. Otherwise, He is limited in His power if dull-in-her-opinion books are presented. Her “living books” philosophy is a firm command, a directive – not a mere suggestion to avoid what she thought was “twaddle”. As a Christian parent, I’m very concerned when commands that involve “what God needs or likes” have no basis in Scripture!!
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil…” 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NKJV)
The answer to this isn’t as complicated as some educational philosophies make it sound like. The work of teaching practical life skills and discoveries in this world (which includes academics) is both a work of God (Isaiah 28:24-29 cf. Deuteronomy 8:18) and the work that God has given His people to do (e.g. Titus 2:9-15 – I think the preparation for employment/skills for life’s work/school subjects can also be derived from verse 10). (It is also a work for His creation to do too – Job 12:7-11, Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20.) It is NOT described in the Bible though as a matter of divine co-operation of requiring certain methodology, materials, schedules, etc.. People have freedom to make choices for breakfast cereal, what seeds to plant in a garden, AND how “school” is taught. The Bible doesn’t give you requirements on teaching methodologies, even though some leaders might quote verses to try to prove that their humans ideas are critical to school-life which in turn, make you feel guilty if you dare stray from those ideals. But “school” instead should be fun, helpful, and not intimidating with heavy human philosophies to read long and hard about, stealing your precious time away from what really matters – real life.
Please do not turn me into a leader to worship. Don’t worship my ideas either. My ideas for teaching methods are simply that – only ideas and opinions that I share, based on what I’ve studied and experienced over the years in the educational field. Worship God alone!!!
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