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Homeschooling, Adam Clarke Style – Part 2

Note: Last week, I started a two-part discussion from a commentary note by Adam Clarke, originally published in the early 1800s. He wrote the following about Deuteronomy 6:25, with what I feel is about the most excellent summary of homeschooling philosophy I’ve ever read. This is “part two,” but you can read “part one” by clicking here.

Today, let’s begin with what Adam Clarke felt was the most criminal action a parent could commit.

But what can be said to those parents who, possessing a better faith, equally neglect the instruction of their children in the things of God! They are highly criminal; and if their children perish through neglect, which is very probable, what a dreadful account must they give in the great day!

Is Mr. Clarke being a bit dramatic here? “Criminal”? How can parents, Christian parents who “possess a better faith,” be considered criminal if they neglect passing on the instruction of God to their children?

Jesus says something very similar (and shocking):

“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:5-6, NIV).

Sadly, I think families have gotten lazy by passing on the instruction of their children to others. It’s fine to delegate, as long as the teacher is held strictly accountable to the mother and father. But we should be extremely careful about “delegating” the instruction of God. As Mr. Clarke reminds us, “what a dreadful account must [parents] give in the great day!”

Seriously, dear mother, have you give careful consideration to the thought that you will stand before God someday? Have you rehearsed what you will tell God about the methods and parenting techniques that you use each day?

“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12, NIV). (Read also the short but sobering book of 2 Peter!)

A right perspective of child-rearing begins with understanding to whom a child belongs. Is that sweet little baby in your house “your child”?

“Sons are a heritage (a “possession“) from the LORD,
children a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3, NIV).

Does this child belong to the state, to be educated to a model citizen?

“When an opponent declares,
‘I will not come over to your side.’
I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already…
What are you? You will pass on.
Your descendants, however,
now stand in the new camp.
In a short time they will know nothing
else but this new community.'” ~ Adolf Hitler

Does this child belong to the church, to be educated by pastors, Sunday school teachers, or children’s-ministry workers? Your pastor will stand before God and give an account, but not for the instruction of the children God gave you.

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account” (Hebrews 13:17, NIV).

“Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when [the LORD] said to [Moses], ‘Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children'” (Deuteronomy 4:10, NIV).

Note whose job it was to assemble the people to hear God’s words — and whose job it was to teach them to the children.

So Adam Clarke goes on to begin detailing what proper instruction of children looks like:

Parents! hear what the Lord saith unto you: Ye shall diligently teach your children that there is one Lord, Jehovah, Elohim; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: and that they must love him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might.

I notice that Mr. Clarke is beginning to quote from earlier in Deuteronomy 6 (see verses 4-5). Jews recite the Shema (literally, “Hear,” O Israel…) twice a day, and that’s an excellent start. I also notice that he recommends teaching classic doctrine (teaching or “catechism”), which is also an excellent start. It’s very wise to be systematic and logical in the teaching of our children.

But I also notice that he believes in teaching heart knowledge of God, not just head knowledge. Deuteronomy 6 explains how to do this:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NIV).

“‘In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?’ tell him…” (Deuteronomy 6:20-21, NIV).

There are actually a lot more ideas, all given by God, in Deuteronomy 6 that we parents would be wise to look at and write down. (I smell a future blog post! 🙂 )

And as children are heedless, apt to forget, liable to be carried away by sensible things [things that can be perceived by your physical senses], repeat and re-repeat the instruction, and add line upon line, precept [a law with authority] upon precept, here a little and there a little, carefully studying time, place, and circumstances, that your labor be not in vain: show it in its amiableness [loveliness], excite attention by exciting interest; show how good, how useful, how blessed, how ennobling [dignifying], how glorious it is.

This is a great sentence by Mr. Clarke! We can gather much about possible homeschooling methods here!

Whet [sharpen or stimulate] these things on their hearts till the keenest edge is raised on the strongest desire, till they can say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee!”

Mr. Clarke finishes with this amazing quotation from Psalm 73:25 that makes me want to shout and give him a standing ovation! This sentence tells me what kind of end result I should strive for!

How do we measure success in our children? What kinds of heroes do we lift up before our children? Think carefully about this statement before you choose how and what to teach your children! (Compare any list of modern-day heroes to the list God gives in Hebrews 11, for instance.)

So the final summary of an excellent and biblical homeschooling philosophy is as follows:

  1. Compare all homeschooling philosophies, methods, and goals with God’s Word!
  2. It is my biblical duty to teach the fear of God to my children. This is the basis of all their homeschooling subjects.
  3. If God’s Word doesn’t affect my own life, I won’t teach it to my children.
  4. All of Scripture is to be taught to my children.
  5. Truth is evidenced by a love for God and a love for man.
  6. Anything that doesn’t teach God’s truth should not be taught at all.
  7. It is criminal to neglect the instruction of God to my children, and my children could be destroyed by my neglect!
  8. There are specific pieces of information I must teach about God.
  9. There are specific heart attitudes I must pass on to my children.
  10. There are specific methods God tells me to use when instructing my children.
  11. My goal is to have my children desire God above anything else.

For me, I’m planning to take this list, study further in Deuteronomy 6 as I mentioned above, and begin formulating an action plan. How can I apply this to my life and to my homeschooling?

I know I need a lot of work in this department! Feel free to share any and all ideas below…


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  1. After some recent criticism of the fact we homeschool these posts are exactly what I needed. And would you believe God brought Duet. 6:4-7 into play every day this week? My reading, my husbands reading, the kids reading, it was just so evident that God was reminding us of the main reason why we are homeschooling – HIM! I am reading “A Homeschool that Handles the Hard Times” by Tammy Marshall Cardwell. She discussing how critical it is that we put God first. On pg. 11 (in which she also mentions Duet!) she talks about a Barna study in 2005:
    “In February of 2005, the Barna Group released the results of a survey in
    which they asked 1004 adults questions about parenting and their goals for their
    children. The results, especially those reflecting the views of born-again
    Christians, are disappointing—even disturbing…..
    Of the respondents, 43% of the parents teach their children that
    there are some moral absolutes that must always be obeyed no matter what the
    situation and 45% teach that there are no such moral absolutes. One would
    think that surely the 45% reflected only the non-Christians. Unfortunately, one
    would be wrong.
    According to this study, less than 60% of born again parents teach their
    children that there are certain moral absolutes that must always be obeyed.
    Only three out of ten born again parents included the
    salvation of their child in the list of critical parental
    As she says, this is VERY disturbing.
    My prayer is that we all will be seeking Gods will and teaching Love of Him beyond everything else – Especially when we are seen as eccentric, crazy or weird!
    Have a Blessed Week!

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