Another Generation After Them
- Thursday, January 15, 2009
It was a pivotal time in the young nation’s history. Having gained independence from its oppressors just a few short decades before, the nation was faced with great challenges. The bold and righteous leaders of the previous generation had passed on, and a new generation had been raised up in their place. But the new generation lacked the direction and vision which had characterized their earlier leaders, and the young nation—a nation that ought to have enjoyed a zenith of greatness unparalleled in history—fell back into bondage.
Such was the case with ancient Israel.
In the Old Testament book of Judges, we come across a series of verses which, in my opinion, are some of the most extraordinary and tragic in all the Bible: “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old . . . And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers . . .” (Judges 2:7-8, 10-12)
The story which follows is as sad as the verses above are shocking. In the next few verses we read how the children of Israel continued to forsake God, to the point that He brought them into the bondage of their enemies as a judgment on the nation.
So why is all of this so extraordinary? For one simple reason: the Israelites were now in the Promised Land—a place that was supposed to be filled with victory and service to God, not idolatry and defeat. Egypt, which they had left behind, was the land of bondage; the Promised Land was supposed to be the land of freedom. But instead, they went from bondage in Egypt to bondage in the Promised Land. The victory that was supposed to be theirs was traded for defeat.
The account is made even more surprising when we consider the history of the nation as a whole, and the position in which this particular generation found itself. The grandparents of this generation were in bondage in Egypt; they saw the plagues poured out on the Egyptians, witnessed the parting of the Red Sea, experienced the giving of the Ten Commandments, and were led through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The grandparents of this generation were fed on manna from heaven and drank water that poured out of a rock. It was this generation’s parents who were led across the Jordan by Joshua, who marched around Jericho, who saw the walls tumble down, who won great victories over their enemies. These two generations were privileged to witness some of the greatest miracles God has ever worked—or ever will work—in all of history. Yet somehow, this generation, which ought to have had one of the greatest spiritual legacies of all time—which ought to have been able to reach great heights, standing on the shoulders of those who had gone before—somehow fell into gross idolatry. Because of this, they were brought into the bondage of the very nations God desired to bring down before them.
How could this have happened?
The obvious answer, of course, is that they stopped serving God, and instead turned to the false gods of the surrounding nations. God could not tolerate their idolatry indefinitely, so in time, He brought them into bondage as a judgment.
But the complete answer goes deeper than that. We are told that this generation “knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” Without intending to be judgmental, it appears that there was failure on the part of Joshua’s generation to fully impart to their children the vision and legacy which God had given them. As long as the generation who had personally witnessed God’s greatness was alive, the nation served the Lord. When they died, the next generation turned away from God. They didn’t have the vision to carry on in their own generation what had been started in the days of their grandparents, then carried closer to completion in the days of their own parents.
God gave the Israelites distinct instructions to teach their children about Him. To what extent they may or may not have done this, we don’t know. Perhaps they were so occupied in taming the new land that they simply neglected the responsibility altogether. We don’t really know what happened. All we know is that another generation came after them “which knew not the Lord.” The results were tragic and devastating.
Let’s bring all of this a little closer to home. Could the same thing happen in our own day, to our own children? Absolutely. We have been observing for years the effects of secular education on Christian families, and the results are shattering. Up to 85% of children from Christian homes who attend public schools end up leaving church by the time they graduate from high school.1 That bears a striking similarity to the generation in Judges “which knew not the Lord.”
But what about those of us who have committed ourselves to Christian home education? Could the same thing happen to our families? Yes, although preliminary research suggests that the success rate of homeschooling parents in passing their faith on to their children is actually higher than the failure rate found in public schools.2 In other words, according to the statistics at least, Christian homeschooling parents are doing a great job of passing their faith on to their children. (Just as a side note, however, we should never become complacent, nor should we judge our success simply by our children’s good manners, excellent character, and frequent church attendance. None of that truly equates with successfully passing our faith on to the next generation. Only if and when our children begin their own personal walks with Jesus has our faith truly been passed on.)
Let’s take this thought a step further. If public schools (and yes, sadly, even many Christian schools) are failing us in transmitting our faith to the next generation, and if Christian home education is enjoying a phenomenally high success rate, then it should be our goal to not only pass our faith on to our children, but also a vision for Christian home education. In other words, if we want our grandchildren to have a much greater probability of accepting Christ as their Savior and having their fruitfulness as Christians unhindered by the secular indoctrination of worldly education, then we would do well to make sure our children have caught the vision for Christian homeschooling.
At present, research suggests that approximately 80% of homeschool graduates intend to teach their own children at home.3 At first, that doesn’t sound too bad. But let’s make that a little more personal. If 80% intend to homeschool, that means 20% don’t. The implication? Statistically, one out of five of your grandchildren are at high risk of being enrolled in some form of education that you have deemed unsuitable for your own children. One out of five of your grandchildren are at risk of sitting in a classroom under the tutelage of unknown teachers, rather than under the loving discipleship of their own parents. One out of five of your grandchildren are at high risk of being placed in an educational system that, in comparison to homeschooling, is failing abominably in passing on our Christian faith. One out of five of your grandchildren are at risk of being placed in a school system that has an 85% success rate at destroying our children’s faith.
For the sake of the coming generations, I think we need to do better at passing on the vision of Christian home education.
If we diligently homeschool our own children and see them mature and grow in their own personal relationships with God, but we fail to pass on to them the vision of Christian home education, we’ve only won a single-generation victory. The work of one generation can be wiped out in the next. On the other hand, if we pass on to our children a vision for Christian home education, the victory can be passed from one generation to the next in an unbroken chain.
So how can we successfully pass on the vision to our children?
Understand the Vision
First, have a clear understanding in your own heart and mind of the fundamental reasons you chose homeschooling for your own family. It’s harder for us to pass on the vision if it’s fuzzy in our own minds.
Take some time to write down the top five reasons you opted to homeschool your children. (If you can include your spouse in this, so much the better.) Are you homeschooling in order to pass on your faith? To build character and virtue? Give better academic instruction? Have greater flexibility in overseeing the influences which shape your children’s young minds? Perhaps all of these will make it onto your list. Perhaps you’ll think of others to add as well. (If you come up with more than five important reasons, go ahead and write them all down.)
Regardless of what your specific list may contain, write it down. Keep that paper, and refer back to it as often as necessary to keep the vision alive in your own heart. You may want to go over the list a few times per year: Once at the beginning of the school year to rekindle your vision, once during the middle of the year to keep your vision strong during the daunting days of winter, and once after the completion of the school year to evaluate how well you did in measuring up to your goals. You could even post the list in a prominent place in your home so you can easily refer to it as often as needed.
By writing down your reasons for homeschooling and referring back to them regularly, you’ll have a clear idea in your own mind of the vision you want to pass on to your children.
A second important step is to be absolutely committed to Christian home education. If you feel that homeschooling is God’s will for your family—if you feel the call of God to train up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—then don’t waver in that calling.
Remember that homeschooling isn’t just about the academics; if it was, it would be easy to pass that responsibility on to someone else. We need to broaden our view and see homeschooling as full-spectrum next-generation discipleship. Yes, academics are a part of that, but they are certainly not the whole. Our objective should not simply be to raise smart children. Instead, we should aim for nothing short of raising a generation equipped in every way to accept the responsibility of spreading and building the kingdom of God in their time.
When we view Christian home education in this light, we begin to see why total commitment to our responsibility to train the next generation is so vitally important. When we abdicate that responsibility, we’re not simply entrusting the academic instruction of our children to others, but are leaving the formation of the next generation in the hands of those to whom God never gave that calling.
Make a commitment today, if you’ve never made one before, that you’re in this for the long haul. For the sake of your children, your children’s children, and all future generations for as long as time lasts, decide in your heart and mind today that homeschooling is your vocation, your life’s calling.
Communicate the Vision
Just as we can pass any other belief or set of values on to our children by talking about it—explaining our belief and and clearly communicating why we hold it—we can do the same with the vision for Christian home education.
First of all, if you’ve never explained to your children why you homeschool them, now is the time to do it. Get out your list of reasons, and explain as much of it as you can, in an age-appropriate manner. (Obviously, due to the moral decay in our nation’s schools, some details may have gone into your decision to homeschool that wouldn’t be appropriate to share with younger children—leave those details out, but explain as much of the rest as you can.)
A second great step is to simply talk in a way that assumes your children will homeschool their own children when the time comes. Make comments such as, “When you homeschool your own kids someday . . .” There’s no reason to treat it as an “if.” We don’t treat other values and convictions as optional, so why should we treat homeschooling that way?
To illustrate what I’m talking about, let’s look at a parallel situation. A common question to ask children or young people is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That question assumes that they’re going to be productive members of society. We don’t say, “If you decide to work when you grow up, what would you like to be?” Instead, by simply asking our children in an unconditional way what they want to be when they grow up, we teach them to take for granted the fact that they’ll be doing something. Not doing something isn’t an option.
In the same way, we can do much to pass on the vision of Christian home education simply by assuming in our conversations that our children will homeschool their own children someday.
Celebrate Your Lifestyle
God gave the children of Israel numerous instructions on how to commemorate and celebrate key events in their history. When they celebrated the Passover, for example, the Israelites would remember that they were once slaves in Egypt, and they would be reminded again how God brought them out of bondage.
In a similar way, I believe we can help pass on the vision for Christian home education by celebrating our lifestyle and our commitment to homeschooling.
For years, our family celebrated the anniversary of the day in March, 1990, when we first began homeschooling. It was treated as a special day, and it helped show my brother and me that homeschooling was something special, not just something routine.
When we commemorate a key event in this way, it can convey to our children a sense of the importance of what we’re celebrating. We show them that it’s an important part of our lives. Just as the Israelites could use the annual Passover as a time to share the mercy and greatness of God with their children, so we can use an annual celebration of homeschooling to share with our children the specialness of our unique and wonderful lifestyle.
If you’ve always homeschooled, and therefore don’t have an official homeschooling anniversary in the same way that newcomers to homeschooling have, pick any day that makes sense to you and make it your annual celebration of homeschooling. Have a special meal, talk about why you homeschool, and discuss some of the special memories you’ve made or the opportunities you’ve experienced because of homeschooling. Make the day enjoyable and memorable.
Homeschooling provides you and your family with incredible blessings unknown to any other lifestyle. Homeschooling parents often recognize and appreciate these blessings, but how often are the children in the home taught to appreciate them?
When you and your children are given a unique opportunity because you homeschool, point it out to your children. Too often, I believe it’s easy for children to look around and see what they’re missing out on, rather than appreciating what they have (that sounds like a lot of us adults, too!). The fact is, your kids aren’t likely to keep a mental list of all the wonderful things they’ve experienced because of home education if you never point them out.
De-emphasize Missed Opportunities
One reason some homeschool graduates decide they won’t homeschool their own children is the feeling that they missed out on opportunities because they were homeschooled. They feel they were deprived of something significant and want to make sure their own kids don’t miss out as well.
The sad fact is, the opportunities they’ve missed rarely have any lasting significance, and they don’t begin to compare with the blessings of home education.
The unfortunate fact is this: One of the biggest reasons parents give up on homeschooling, and also why some homeschool graduates decide not to homeschool their own children, is sports. I’ve heard it time after time. May I suggest that in the eternal scheme of things, the opportunity to toss a ball through an iron hoop with a group of peers carries zero significance in comparison to the blessings of Christian home education?
If homeschooling fails to provide some kind of legitimate opportunity for your child, don’t sit back and passively accept the status quo. If the opportunity is genuinely worthwhile, and you believe it will contribute in a meaningful way to where you believe God is leading your child, then find a creative way to provide the opportunity within the framework of homeschooling. On the other hand, if the value of the opportunity is doubtful, then try to help your child cultivate alternate interests with opportunities you can take advantage of. One thing we must never do is allow our children to view homeschooling as something that takes everything away and gives nothing back. They need to understand that, although homeschooling may require certain sacrifices—for every member of the family—the blessings far, far outweigh any temporary disappointments.
Last, but certainly not least, pray that your children will catch the vision for Christian home education. We can do all the right things, but ultimately, it’s up to God to bless our efforts. As we implement wise practices in our homes, we should never neglect to ask God for His blessing.
A Closing Caution
Don’t put your goal of passing on the vision of Christian home education above that of passing on your faith. If our children are lost without God, it doesn’t matter if they intend to homeschool their own kids or not. Passing on our faith must come first. Passing on the vision of Christian home education can come after that.
As we see in the ancient nation of Israel, it’s entirely possible to go from great victory to incredible defeat in the space of one generation. Given the incredible success of Christian home education in passing the faith from one generation to the next, it is fundamentally important that we not only pass our faith on to our children, but that we also pass on a vision for Christian home education. If we want our faith to be handed down through the generations, we must do our part to make sure that each generation will do what’s necessary to pass it on to the next.
Christian home education is a tool like no other that we can use to pass on our faith. We can help perpetuate a spiritual legacy of victory by not only passing on our faith, but by also seeking to pass on the vision of Christian home education. Our grandchildren—and all generations that may come after them—hang in the balance. May it never be written of our children or grandchildren that “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord.”
1 “Christian Kids Left Behind—By Their Parents,” by Olivia St. John, published by WorldNetDaily, December 4th, 2007 http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=59008 The Southern Baptist Convention has also released similar data.
2 Study done by Sandra Anderson entitled “Home Education: Declaring His Power to the Next Generation?”
3 Dr. Brian Ray, “Homeschooling Grows Up.” http://www.hslda.org/research/ray2003/default.asp
Jonathan Lewis is a homeschool graduate and enjoys working with his family on Home School Enrichment Magazine. In his spare time, Jonathan can usually be found reading, dabbling in photography, or spending time with his family. You can reach him at jonathan@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com
This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec ’08 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Get more great homeschooling help by downloading our FREE report entitled “The Secret to Homeschooling Freedom” by visiting http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com/resources/report.htm
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