Me in 1959 heading to first grade.
Yesterday, my mom was reminiscing about her sister, Edith, who passed away a couple years ago and I remembered something I had written about her at the time. I think it is fitting to bring it out again for several reasons. First, those of us who live in Illinois have been feeling some real threats from our legislature regarding homeschooling freedoms over the past few months and they appear to continue during the remaining weeks of this legislative session. We need to keep in mind the real threats to our goals as homeschooling families. Secondly, the disagreements between Ken Ham and Great Homeschool Conventions continue and, whatever the details may be and the alliances that are being made, I have been disappointed in the past couple of years in Ham’s take on the Barna research that he believes points the finger at Sunday schools as the reasons so many young adults abandon the faith when they leave home. I think that is poppycock. And, finally, I can always tell when people have been attending homeschooling and other conferences with those who promote a family integrated church agenda because my downloads of the articles I wrote sharing the pros and cons of the movement start to skyrocket; those numbers have gone out the roof the past couple of weeks! So, here are some thoughts at the point where these issuses intersect, at least in my mind today!
I recently picked up my copy of Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s 1988 Home School Burnout, a book I had not read since the year is was published and I was homeschooling 3 children, had one toddler, and a newborn contributing to my own burnout potential. I will soon be interviewing both the Moore’s daughter, Kathie, and Ellen Dana from the Moore Academy for a series of podcasts, and wanted to refresh my memory about some of the things that had impacted my own early years as a homeschooler, thanks to the Moores and their research.
One point that was made in the early part of the book was the idea that some homeschoolers tend to see the government education system or even public school teachers as the enemy of home education and I must admit that there have been times when it has been difficult not to agree with that. But over the past couple of days I have thought long and hard about whom the real enemy is and why identifying the real threat to home schooling is crucial, especially as we define and seek to participate in multi-generational faithfulness as homeschooling parents. As always happens, the Lord provided me with a real example to teach me what He wanted me to know.
On Sunday afternoon, my Aunt Edith passed away. She was almost 88 years old and spent most of her life as an evangelist to children. Her obituary will be in the paper this week and will say that she taught public school for decades but in reality, she spent those years giving testimony of her faith in Jesus Christ to several generations of children. My Aunt Edith practiced multi-generational faithfulness. While the Lord gave her one physical daughter, she also gave her hundreds of spiritual sons and daughters because of her commitment to proclaiming the Gospel message of Jesus within the school systems of Central Illinois.
My mom, her younger sister, remembers when Edith traveled along miles of gravel and dirt roads to teach K-12 in country schools. Having only graduated from high school at that point, she began taking college classes in order to fulfill the legal requirements for teaching and eventually graduated and received a teaching certificate. Most of her career was spent teaching first graders, the age she most delighted in throughout her entire life.
Edith was married to her first husband for 25 years until he died of cancer. A few years later she remarried and she and her husband, Sam, began to have a vision for Child Evangelism Fellowship. I remember her sharing with me that she had started to see so many little ones in her classrooms who were from broken and dysfunctional homes that her heart was stirred to minister to them any way that she could. So she opened her home to Good News Clubs, each week inviting dozens of neighborhood children into a refurbished basement, complete with small tables and chairs, flannel graph boards, toys, and games. There they were shown the love of Christ, given homemade snacks, and were challenged with the message of God’s grace.
When she and Sam married, Sam, a widower, had moved into her home but had kept his house in a neighborhood of Peoria that was slowly being taken over by drug use and gang violence. Undaunted, Edith decided they ought to open another Good News Club in that neighborhood and so they did, welcoming in dozens more children, sharing the good news of salvation. Many more came to Christ and some brought their parents along to hear, too.
When the Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that prayer was to be banned from public school classrooms, Edith knew that, as a Christian, she could not comply and continued to prayer aloud over her students every day until she retired decades later. God honored her faithfulness and protected her, no student or parent ever questioning her practice. And because of her outspoken proclamation of the Gospel message, several generations of children within her school were introduced to the Savior.
My Aunt Edith had been raised by a mother who read the Word of God, my own grandmother who also shared her love of the Word with me. The Lord gave her a life-long calling to evangelism that she purposed to fulfill whenever and wherever she could, her greatest mission field being the public school system.
But not once in the years we homeschooled did I ever sense or hear a negative word about homeschooling from her. In fact, she treated me as a colleague, often offering curricula or fun projects from her files for me to share with my children. She was excited about homeschooling and the potential she saw that it held for children. She became one of the biggest cheerleaders I had for homeschooling and her encouragement went beyond me to families in her church who also had chosen this path.
One day she shared with me that she had been raking the leaves in her front yard when a middle-aged man with his son stopped by and asked her if she was the same lady who used to have all the children come to her house for Bible lessons. Nodding to him, he went on to tell her that he had attended one of her Good News clubs as a child and how much it had changed his life. Looking at his little boy, my aunt was overwhelmed with God’s goodness and faithfulness in furthering His Kingdom through even another generation.
My Aunt Edith had never heard the phrase “militant fecundity” yet she loved children and welcomed all she could into her home and her life. If she had heard the phrase “multi-generational faithfulness,” I am certain she would also have boldly stated that the faithfulness comes from God’s hand rather than from any works we might do. Yet, in her faithfulness as an evangelist to the little ones in her neighborhood and in her classrooms over the years, the Lord brought many to Himself, not for the glory or agenda of any man but for His glory alone.
As readers of the series of articles I did on the family integrated church movement know, I have a heart for home discipleship and believe it is a vital aspect of what we do as Christian parents, especially as homeschooling parents who are seeking to put Deuteronomy 6 into practice every single day. But I believe that God is so much bigger than what we do or do not do within His redemption plan, including how He chooses to bring others to Himself.
According to some, age segregated Sunday school for little ones flies in the face of multi-generational faithfulness. To them, youth groups of all kinds, Good News Clubs, camps, and AWANA are all part of a Darwinian plot against the family. But I would say emphatically that their definition of multi-generational faithfulness is skewed and is used to define all sorts of things that my Aunt Edith would never have considered as crucial to the lives of those who seek to follow Christ from generation to generation. Preaching Jesus and Him crucified and purposing to make disciples who love Him, reflecting His faithfulness to us, and to love their neighbors as themselves would most likely be her definition. It would be mine as well.