Why Our Kids Never Went To Public School–Fifth and concluding part

by Al Benson Jr.

Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

As my wife and I settled into the concept of home schooling we found that we needed some sort of structured curriculum that we could be comfortable with. Even in the late 1980s there were quite a few home school curriculums out there, though probably not as many as today. One of our daughter’s friends, one time, commented to us “You guys home schooled before home schooling was cool.” I hadn’t thought of it that way but I guess she was right. In 1986 it hadn’t been all that long since people in some states had had their kids removed out of their homes because they refused to put them in public schools. After all, for many officious bureaucrats Government schools were the sacred cows of the hour.

So my wife and I started attending home school book fairs and conventions when we could get to them. We started checking out books and listening to various speakers.

One thing I found with various home school curriculums was that the selection of history books was, for me, somewhat discouraging in the main, and the same held true for books I saw on government. Some of the books I saw at fairs looked pretty much like government school material with a few Bible verses sprinkled over it–just enough to make them palatable to home school families that didn’t know an awful lot of history (and weren’t likely to learn much with some of these books).

We finally came up with a curriculum for our kids, but I didn’t use their history material. For our son I came up with a five volume series by Clarence B. Carson called A Basic History of the United States. It was published by the American Textbook Committee of Wadley, Alabama, originally copyrighted in 1983. It was a good, solid basic U.S. history that didn’t dwell on a pile of politically correct drivel and I found that, when it came to the volume on the War of Northern Aggression, they got it right. Our son worked in that series until he completed high school. I also had him read current events articles out of the New American magazine and write out short reports on these.

For our daughter we came up with a book by Donzella Cross Boyle called Quest of a Hemisphere for American history. I liked this book because it went into the differences between republics and democracies–something most history books almost totally ignore. Our daughter was three years younger than our son and that seemed a better choice for her at that point.

In early 1989 we moved from Indiana to Illinois and my wife and I went to work for a Christian home school program there. The folks in our church in Indiana gave us a going-away party, at which they presented me with an electric typewriter. As I stated earlier, they were not bad folks, but I think some of what I did made them nervous and some of them were probably relieved to see us go. I seem to have had that effect on a couple churches over the years.

For awhile our daughter worked in the curriculum used by the home schooling program we worked in. One of the books they used for American history was an A-Beka book. This was a high school book and the title escapes me at this point. The home school program in Illinois used this as a two-year course in American history. So our daughter started reading in it and working through it and she finished the entire book in less than six months. Her comment to me at that point was “Dad, can we go on to something else for American history? This book was shallow.”

So we did. A friend I worked with lent me a home school American history course that consisted of 16 cassette tapes, a whole book of notes and a great big bibliography to go with it. It had originally been done as a series of lectures by Pastor Steve Wilkins when he was still in Forest, Mississippi. It was called America–the first 350 years. Contrary to much of what I had seen for American history over the years, this was history with some meat on the bones! This series had all the stuff most history books, even for the home school audience, either ignored or played down. The man who put this series together was not just a pastor, he was also a historian, and a historian from a Reformed Christian perspective. This was history our daughter could sink her teeth into–and she did–nothing shallow here!

We did the series together, tape by tape, late at night when it was quiet and if we came to something on one of the tapes she wasn’t sure about, we shut the tape off and talked about it. She sat with a notebook on her lap and took notes through the whole thing. She finished her home schooling with this tape series and both of us learned much we had not known previously. This was like “all the history the historians leave out.” The series started with Columbus, though Pastor Wilkins commented on possible European involvement here before Columbus–and it went through the end of “reconstruction” after the War of Northern Aggression. It stopped after that. Later, someone asked Pastor Wilkins why he had stopped after that, and I never forgot his reply. He said “Because everything after reconstruction was Post-America.” In other words, everything after “reconstruction” was not the America the founders had given us–it was a whole different animal. He was right. None of us alive today has ever lived in the “real” America passed down from the Founders. We have lived in a clever counterfeit and most don’t even realize it. The War of Northern Aggression was our French Revolution, and like France, we have never recovered.

Rev. Wilkins’ history series was pivotal in our daughter’s understanding of accurate American history and it made enough of a difference in her outlook that our grandchildren, who were home schooled, used this series also. The cassette tapes are long gone, but I think you can still find the series in MP3 today.

Had our children attended government schools, especially in the North, they would never have had the opportunity to learn accurate history. All they would have learned of history in the government schools would have been the “cunningly devised fables”, taught to government school students, and that bemuse most evangelical Christians in our day–in other words, it ain’t real history!

After working with the home school program in Illinois for several years, my wife and I moved to  North Louisiana, where the church we attend has a classical Christian school and where the youngsters are taught correct history, not politically correct history.

Some may think I belabor the history question too much, but history is the area my calling has been in, and I have learned over the years, that if you don’t get your country’s history (and the world’s) history correct, then you will most often come down on the wrong side of every political and historical discussion you ever get into because you will not have done the homework. Ask your average evangelical Christian, even in the South, what the War of Northern Aggression was fought over and 90% of them will say “slavery.” And that is the culturally Marxist reply. It’s not that these folks are intentionally Marxist, it’s just that they don’t know. The government schools most of them attended only ever gave them the culturally Marxist  answer to the question of what the War was all about.

Among evangelicals in our day (and before) this has been a major problem–in the main, we don’t know our history–and we will seldom get it in government schools. This is not said to belittle the efforts of those in government schools that try to teach accurately, but it is a sad commentary on the system they work for, that does not want them to teach accurately, no matter what the educational apparatchiks try to tell you. Until our evangelical brethren begin to understand this and remove their kids from the government school leviathan, not much will change. I have said this in the past, but will repeat it here in closing–if our view of the past is faulty, then our vision for the future will be also.

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Part Four–Why Our Kids Never Went To Public School

by Al Benson Jr.

Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

The reactions to our decision to home school our kids were fairly quick and followed certain patterns. A couple of folks decided that, as long as we were going to do this, they could help us out by giving us lists of books we should get and make sure our kids read. I recall two such lists, if I remember correctly. I did look over the lists to see what they had.

Interestingly enough, one of the books near the top of both lists was Catcher in the Rye. When I had worked at a college back in the East, many of the kids I knew there had that one as required reading, so I had a chance back then to browse through it on several occasions. Now maybe it’s just that I am old fashioned, but my first reaction to seeing that on both lists was “I don’t want our kids reading that!” Maybe some of you all have read that one and don’t think it was as questionable as I did. There were several other offerings on both lists that I frowned at. There wasn’t an awful lot on either list that I wanted our kids messing with. Now our kids were both readers and we bought them books when we could afford to and they read and reread many of them until the covers literally fell off them. We bought them C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series and they read those until they were literally falling apart. I realize some folks disagree with some of Lewis’ materials, but it was a lot better than some of what was out there. Anyway, the book lists were a flop.

Later on, after that, (and I didn’t find this out until our kids were grown and our son told it to me), some of the ladies from the church pulled him aside one day and asked him if he wouldn’t really rather go to a public school than to have to learn at  home. I assume they were trying to get him to persuade us to put the kids in the local government schools. That didn’t work either. My son told them that if he had to end up in a public school, he would just quit. At that point he was 16 and, therefore, old enough to do that.

In retrospect, that bothered me a little. My wife and I had made certain decisions that we felt were best for our children and they were trying to “rearrange” those decisions to what they thought was best.

So, with those two agendas not working, the next project was to send the pastor out to talk to us and talk us into doing what many, if not most, in the church figured we should do. You see. some of these folks had a problem with the fact that neither my wife nor I had a college degree, and in their minds you couldn’t do anything without a college degree, preferably several, with a whole batch of letters strung out after your name. I don’t think they felt we were stupid–it was just that we were ignorant and didn’t know what we didn’t know. I had tried to tell some of them who didn’t know what the government schools in West Virginia and other places were doing and they didn’t want to know that. So I guess that made us even!

Understand, when I say all this, these were not bad people. I think some of them had a genuine concern, but their worldview was not our worldview and they never could quite grasp where we were coming from. All they knew was that much of it turned them off and part of their solution to our situation was to try to make our kids as much like theirs as possible.

Anyway, the pastor came out one evening (his kids were in government schools which he thought were just great). And he was going to talk us into “doing the right thing” for our kids. So he gave us all his reasons why he thought the government schools were the only way to go with our kids and they would probably grow up culturally deprived if they couldn’t attend them.

After he had completed his recitation, I said to him, “You’ve told us all the reasons you think we should put our kids in public school and now I’m going to tell you all the reasons we are not going to do that.” And I had a list of reasons, not on paper, but in my head and so I started telling him what we knew about government education and our problems with it. When I got through, he said to me “You’ve thought this through pretty well haven’t you?” I assured him we had, which was no lie, and then he said to me (and I have never forgotten this) “In light of what you have just told me, what I am suggesting to you must sound like blasphemy.” To which I replied “You’re getting pretty close.” I guess I had made our point, either that or they all thought we were totally hopeless, I don’t know which, because no one at church ever mentioned the education question to us again. From the pastor on down, they just dropped it.

And although this incident I am about to mention doesn’t have specifically to do with our kids’ education, I mention it anyway, because it is an educational issue. I had been asked to teach a Sunday School class, and there was a lot of “safe” material out there that I could have used that would have threatened or challenged no one. However, I chose to try to teach a class about secular humanism. They all professed to be “agin it” but most of them knew little about it or how it had infiltrated the churches.

This came up because I had previously taught a one session class about this and quoted extensively from The Humanist Manifesto 2, which they were obviously unfamiliar with. At the end of that class, one lady asked me if what I had used was John Birch material. I told her “I didn’t use any John Birch material.  What I gave  you today was right from the Humanist Manifesto 2. What I gave you was right from the horse’s mouth.” They were astonished, they didn’t have a clue.

Anyway, I don’t know for sure, but I think that may have had something to do with my getting the invitation to do the Sunday School class. In order to have something for them to go by, I bought a book from the local Bible book store about secular humanism and showed it to the pastor.  He took it, showed it to some others, whether it was the elders or not I don’t know, but then he came back and told me some folks had problems with some of what was in the book. So he hemmed and hawed about it and so I just asked him up front, seeing that there were problems with parts of the book “Would you rather I just didn’t do this?” I figured if the book was too rich for them, that gave them an out, but I wasn’t planning on teaching something that made folks feel good. There isn’t much education or challenge in “feeling good.” They could get someone else for that.

The pastor came back in a week or so and said to go ahead and use the book. So I did, and I prepared a lesson for the first week and typed up a batch of material, both from the book and other sources, on secular humanism I had or borrowed. Every week that I did the class, which I think lasted for 3 months or so, I had a batch of reference material to hand out to everyone in the class so they had something on paper to take home with them and look over (I hoped).

But even though they finally agreed to let me do the class, there were still obvious reservations–to the point where they printed a disclaimer in the church bulletin each Sunday letting the congregation know the church probably didn’t endorse everything in the book, so anyone who took the class did so at their own risk.

Interestingly enough, the class was packed–all kinds of people from the elders and deacons on down. I have never been sure if all those folks sat in because of what they could learn or if they were there to make sure I didn’t go too far off what they considered was the deep end.

To be continued.

Why Our Kids Never Went To Pubic School–Part Three

by Al Benson Jr.

Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

As I previously noted, it was not until we moved to Indiana that I grasped why most evangelical folks would not object to nor protest what went on in government schools.

In Indiana we found and attended an evangelical Presbyterian church because it was the only Reformed church we could find in the immediate area. We found a Christian school for our son to enter. Our daughter would not be ready for school for another year yet. Our son had previously been in a Baptist school in West Virginia. The new school in Indiana wasn’t everything we could have hoped for but it was still better than a government school. At least we felt that way–many of the folks in the church we attended were not quite sure of that. Just about all the families that attended this church had their kids in government schools, which they were quite satisfied with. And they thought our kids would be much better off in a government school than in a Christian school. I hope, at this point, no one tries to tell me the Christian faith in this country hasn’t been tampered with.

I think many of the people in our church in Indiana probably felt we were a little weird and as I talked to some of them I found that many, if not most, of their political convictions were not mine–and mine would never be theirs. I had seen too much to take their Pollyanna approach. I had a basic distrust of government. They thought I should love government.

After the time we had spent in West Virginia there was no way under Heaven our kids would go to a government school. They disagreed. They thought government schools were just great. They talked about how the local government schools had great sports and music programs and how our kids would benefit from all that. Although I didn’t say it out loud, my first thought at those sentiments was “I’m going to sell my kid’s souls for a good music program???” When I tried to tell them some of what I had seen in West Virginia it was simply beyond their ability to grasp. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe the government education system would ever do what I described to them. Surely I must have been mistaken, or misunderstood what was being done down there.

They simply could not grasp the idea of little old ladies with broken shoulders and their arms in slings because the local and county law enforcement had hit them with billy clubs while they were breaking up textbook protest meetings. That simply was beyond their ken.

I recall one court hearing I attended, where the local gendarmes had arrested several protesters and one of them was one of the major protest leaders. His “crime” had been to talk to one of the police officers, asking them, please to not do what they were doing to these people. When the officer who had arrested him took the stand he could not even tell anyone what he had arrested the preacher for. He was asked several times by a lawyer that had been brought in to help the protesters and he remained mute–no reply. Justice in West Virginia! But the folks in our Indiana church didn’t want to hear any of this. The government school system would  never do what I said went on in West Virginia–end of conversation! So ours was most definitely the minority opinion in our church, but then, I guess that didn’t surprise me all that much. Mine has been the minority opinion most of the places I have been in my life.

But the education question never totally went away, and at one point, we even got them to agree to listen to the headmaster of our Christian school one Sunday evening after prayer service. At that time, the headmaster of the Christian school our kids went to was from Southern Indiana and he described himself as a “Jeffersonian Democrat.” He and I had many viewpoints in common, educationally and otherwise. Although the church folks listened to what he had to say that Sunday evening about Christian education, they didn’t really buy it, and you could tell from the comments that followed. If we wanted to do it, well, we were a bit odd anyway so it was “probably okay” but they weren’t having any. The following year he left the school and went back to Southern Indiana, for some pressing reason, I don’t just recall why at this point. The headmaster that replaced him was less satisfactory. He was a nice guy, but he didn’t know upside down from inside out and seemed to think he had it all figured out. He had a long way to go.

Awhile after that, due to circumstances I will not go into here, we switched schools and our kids ended up in a school run by a Nazarene church in a nearby town. Now these folks were doctrinally far away from us, but again, the school headmaster there had learned to think outside the box and he had read some of the same material by R. J. Rushdoony and others that I had read, so whatever doctrinal differences we might have had, we shared the same worldview when it came to Christian education.

In each of these Christian school situations we had needed help with tuition. My wife and I both worked, but we didn’t make lots of money–no fat checks coming in from George Soros or the Rockefellers every month, and it wasn’t easy. It was a sacrifice for us even with help.

Yet, how many evangelicals did we run into in Indiana that “just couldn’t afford a Christian education” for their kids?  They had two cars in the garage and a television screen in the living room that covered half of one wall, but a Christian education for their kids was simply “unaffordable.”  I said to my wife on several occasions “We are probably the poorest family in the church and yet we can, with help, manage it. Why can’t some of them?” Actually, it was a matter of priorities. For most evangelical Christians in this country Christian education is just not a real big priority.

However, one year, we reached a point where there was no more help with tuitions available–anywhere. So, at that point, we had to make a decision as to where we would go from there. For us it was not all that difficult. The government school was never an option, and so we started checking into home schooling programs. When the church we were attending heard that, some of them went through the roof!  They were willing to tolerate us with out kids in  a Christian school, even though they would have rather had them in a public school, but when we decided to home school them, we had moved beyond the pale. That was just too much!

To be continued.