Mark McWhorter gave the following speech in Birmingham, Alabama at a homeschool graduation ceremony held at Roebuck Parkway congregation 19 May 2009. It is worthy of a close reading. He kindly gave us permission to reproduce it here.
Are you home-schooled or home-educated?
Most of us use the terms interchangeably, and there is nothing wrong with that. Schooled and educated can mean the same thing.
However, there is a technical difference.
School comes from a Greek word that originally meant ‘a time of rest, relaxation, or entertainment’. It was used for the times of vacation from business in a place where leisure was enjoyed. (It would seem that in many instances today, the original meaning of the word is accurate.) In our society it brings to mind thoughts of a classroom where information is transmitted to students by a teacher. One might sit in a school, and be exposed to a lot of information, but not learn much of anything.
Education comes from a latin word meaning ‘to lead, or draw out.’ This word was used to describe the process of instructing and enlightening the understanding. It included the idea of forming manners and habits, correcting the temper, and making the pupil useful for the future (thus, building character). The educated individual is one who has not only been taught, but who has learned, and knows how to apply that learning to life.
Education is by its very nature religious. One cannot develop character without having an agreed upon foundation of beliefs for that character. Only Biblical religion offers a consistent, authoritative foundation for character.
For education to occur, those giving the instruction must have a worldview. The worldview is the fusion of the facts taught with the religious beliefs. The religious beliefs are what give direction for the application of the facts. The educator’s primary goal is to pass along that worldview. A student is left with a vacuum when only facts are presented. A proper worldview gives reason and purpose for not only the facts, but also for the application to life of those facts. Consider the following:
You do not smile because somehow through long periods of time some nerves and muscles came together and decided to pull in a certain direction. Instead, God coordinated emotions, 12 muscles, and the nerves associated with them so that you could smile. Imagine the confusion if these had to evolve. It would not be likely that the muscles would be coordinated. You would walk up to people and greet them with (make a face). Your parents wanted you to know and appreciate the reason behind your smile and the purpose for your smile.
Only by creation of God could a tiny seed have the chemical contents to organize into an adult plant. Only by God’s wisdom could the seed have the knowledge to send the root downward in the ground and the stalk upward toward the surface. Only by God’s design could there be high-tech fiber optic light channels inside the leaves and stalk which transmits light to the seed and root. What evolutionary process could possibly explain that plant leaves have pores that are reactive to the very level of decibels and frequency which the birds sing with in the mornings and evenings. The pores dilate to the singing allowing the morning and evening dew to more easily enter the leaves.
What a difference a proper education makes in the appreciation of the life around us. That appreciation enhances our desire to worship and serve the Creator.
Education never stops. You will never reach a point where you can say you do not need any more education. Each stage of life requires new information, new skills, and further wisdom.
The terms ‘home school’ or ‘home education’ are normally used to label the ‘site’ where the education occurs. However, I would like to look at it from a different angle.
1) Your parents chose to home educate because they wanted you to understand the value of the home as God instituted it. God established the home as the instrument for procreation; as the vehicle to instill the meaning and feeling of love; and the place where comfort, security, discipline, and character could be experienced and nurtured. Your parents believed that by home educating you, they would have more time and opportunities to love you, encourage you, train you, lead you, discipline you, and teach you. They wanted you to see and experience the home as God intended it. They want you to have a desire to create a proper home when the time is right for you as an adult. It is interesting that the last verses in the Old Testament foretold that the teachings of John the Baptist would “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” This proper reconciliation of parents and children in faith to God prepared the way for the Messiah. If the home is what it should be, the children and the parents will love one another. There will be a proper honoring by the children and a proper guiding and nurturing by the parents. This is the type home your parents desired for you. Your parents hope that you are learning these principles and will apply them with your own children one day.
2) Your parents chose to home educate so that they might instill in you a love for the church. Jesus tells us in Mark 10:30, that even if we must leave our biological family because they will not follow God, we still have a family. He says we will receive ‘an hundredfold’ of brethren, sisters, mothers, and children. The church is a family. Your parents thought that by home educating you, they would be better able to teach you this. They thought there would be more opportunities for you to see throughout the week the care, kindness and concern that the spiritual family has for one another. They wanted to teach you that no matter what trials come along, your spiritual home is a place where you can find compassion and empathy. No matter where you go in the world, if you find other Christians, you have a home. The church home is a place where you can find others with proper spiritual concerns. The older women and men will take you under their arms. The younger ones will look to you for an example and teaching. All will submit one to another in order to help each other.
3) Your parents chose home education because they believed it was a wonderful tool for them to use to begin your life journey toward the final home – heaven. They wanted you to understand that by the foundation from the first home, and only by being in the second home, could you enter the third home. They want you to know that no matter how difficult your struggle may be in this life, there is a wonderful, glorious home awaiting you when this life is over. Just as John, in 2 John 4, stated that he had no greater joy than to hear that his spiritual children walked in truth, so your parents have thoughts of you. They are striving with all their might to guide you to a mindset that will give you courage to be faithful unto death. It is only with that mindset that you can find rest in that final home of heaven.
Your parents believe that home education is their best way to prepare you for life. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,’ Proverbs 22:6. Most in this gathering are very familiar with that verse. It is a maxim – a maxim means that in the majority of instances it holds true. (Unfortunately, it is applied many times as if the reverse were true. It seems that many fall back on the fact it is a maxim, and use that to excuse themselves from its precept regarding their children’s actions.) This verse states that you need training in the way you should go. For that to occur, it requires the parent to know which way that is. Your parents thought that by having more time with you, they would be better able to identify your strengths and weaknesses. The ‘way’ you are to go involves your career choice and your spiritual life. It is the parents’ responsibility to guide you into melding the career strengths with the spiritual walk so that you will be happiest in your service to God. The word ‘train’ in the Hebrew is a word which originally meant to ‘taste, to put in the mouth.’ Your parents have done their best to meld God’s word with your strengths and weaknesses to make your walk in life good tasting. They want you to enjoy life.
Education does not just put responsibility on the teacher. Education puts responsibility on the student as well. We are here today because all of you have accepted that responsibility and have achieved to particular levels in your life. Do not lose that responsibility. Remember that education lasts a lifetime. Your parents hope that they have instilled in you a love for learning. There needs to be a love for learning about God’s creation, which includes career choice, and there needs to be a love for learning God’s word. Only by continually learning can you remain happy. Only by continually learning can you be successful in a career and successful in your spiritual walk.
Center your life on God. Remember that the spiritual training is the major part of your training. The career choice is the minor part. It is the spiritual that will primarily support you through the tough times of life. Psalm 84:5-6 tells us that the man whose strength is in the Lord and whose heart is striving for heaven is blessed. In verse 6, it says such a man will pass through the ‘valley of Baca’ and make it a place of springs. Baca means ‘weeping’. The reference is to some of the deserts and mountains in Palestine. No water was available and traveling through them was very difficult. But rather than crying over such difficulty, the man of God finds reason to be happy and praise God. The 84th Psalm was sung by the travelers on their way to worship at the Temple. Parts of the journey were difficult but they were happy because they were on their way to be with God. God says in Hosea 2:15, that he will give the valley of Achor as a door of hope. Achor means trouble. The lesson for us is that no matter how difficult life may be, if we are on God’s side, there are things to be happy about. No matter how down and out we may be, if we are righteous, we have hope.
Your parents do want you to have a prosperous life. But they do not want you to misplace your focus. The Psalmist in 84:10 says that he would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. In America you have the opportunity to become just about whatever you desire to be within your limitations. But that choice is dependent on God’s regulations. You should not be successful financially at the expense of not living a righteous life. If you are a righteous individual, you are successful in this life – no matter what occupation you have. Money is not the marker of proper living. Power is not the marker of proper living. Righteousness is the marker. Man may look down on you with derision, but God will look down on you with love and care.
Your parents hope they have instilled in you a love for God. Proper results of education are dependent on you making the right choices. In 1 Chronicles 22:7-13, David gives advice to his son Solomon. David is about to hand over the kingship to Solomon. He tells Solomon (who is possibly between 16-18 years old) to only get wisdom and understanding from the Lord – Only the Lord should give him charge concerning Israel. Solomon has gotten great credit down through history for his action of asking God for wisdom. But it was David who told Solomon to do this. Solomon made the right choice and followed his father’s godly advice. It is up to you to follow your parents’ godly advice.
Some of you still have time at home. Others of you are probably in the process of moving on. Either way, you need to remember that your parents will always be your parents. They will always be available for counseling, comforting, encouragement, and reproving if you need it. While the parents’ type of interaction with their child changes as the child matures, the role of parenting remains the same. Take advantage of them while you can. One day they will be gone and you will miss the warmth of their loving, caring arms and the opportunity to sit at their feet for godly advice.
Every parent here can honestly say they agree with David in Psalm 144:12, when he prayed for God’s help for Israel so that “our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” May the young men here be as an oak in the court of God and the young girls be as polished stones in the palace of our Savior.
We bid you God’s speed as you continue on the life-long road of your home education.