By Debbonnaire Kovacs, April 8, 2015 Adventists have a long history of rebelling against “the way things are” and making them different. (We also have a tendency to immediately make this the new “way things are,” but that’s for a different story.) We started out by changing our views of some pivotal Bible chapters, went on to change church, even to the day it met, and continued by doing things like those crazy Quakers and others, such as encouraging women doctors and ministers! [A friend of mine, learning of the recent WO flap, said, “The Adventists?! Really?! But you guys showed us all the way!”]
Children’s education was no different. We started our own schools, or kept our children at home to teach them. We did not do this just so we could inculcate them with our peculiar doctrines. We did it because we wanted to be sure our children were not treated as harshly as they routinely were in the schools of the day. We did it because we thought long hours bent over desks in poor light, with little fresh air, and a birch rod at the ready, was not good for children. We did it because we knew we could take time with our children, meet their (very) individual needs, sympathize with their sorrows, pray with them, work with them, and learn with them. We did it because we wanted to live out Deuteronomy 6:7; we wanted to teach our children when we sat, walked, lay down, or rose up—in other words, we wanted their education to be a natural outgrowth of a productive, working, satisfying, everyday life.
In the eras before compulsory education, teaching children at home was always an option. Wealthy families have for millennia hired tutors and governesses to educate their young ones, while poor families have often had no access to formal education at all and learned what they did know “at mother’s knee.” Fortunate children might at least be taught the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic in one-room “dame schools” or “infant schools” (that is, schools for children younger than about ten years old). In the early centuries of the American experiment, education was given high priority, and nearly all villages had at least the dame school or what came to be called grammar or elementary school, while most offered schools that went to at least eight grades. Still, right up until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, families were at liberty to educate their own children in whatever way they saw fit. In recent decades, more and more families (Adventist or not) are reclaiming those rights.
For Adventist families, especially those for whom there is no group nearby, there is www.facebook.com/sdahomeschoolfamilies. This group was begun in 2008 by Leigh Pritchett, a young homeschooling mother from Albany, Georgia, and now has members from all over the world, though most hail from Pritchett’s southeastern portion of the United States. The group also has a website which contains a “how to start homeschooling” tutorial, testimonials, blogs (dozens, from homeschoolers all over), resources, and curriculum resources, both Adventist and general.
The home page states:
SDA Homeschool Families is a group of dedicated Adventist homeschoolers who interact together in order to support one another on the homeschool journey. We work together to encourage one another through words of affirmation and advice; the dissemination of helpful parenting techniques that foster character development, and the sharing of instructional techniques and curriculum selection. It is a place where Seventh-day Adventist parents work together to raise children who reflect God’s character.
Another resource is Adventist Home Educator, which states, “The mission of The Adventist Home Educator ministry is to encourage Seventh-day Adventist families in living out their faith while homeschooling.” I remember this mighty organization as a paper newsletter in the Olden Days…
I was one of those who made the choice to teach at home in a day when it was a difficult choice to make, sometimes involving civil disobedience. In my state in the 1980s, homeschooling was not technically illegal, but it was frowned upon. Each county superintendent was free to decide if it was allowed in his/her district—in mine, it wasn’t. We hid out at home during “school hours,” (to our mind, an artificial construct that was, at best, un-useful) and did most of our teaching in isolation.
Like many others, I began only as a means of delaying entry into a public or church school. I agree with Ellen White (and others then and now), who said, “Do not send your little ones away to school to early. The mother should be careful how she trusts the molding of the infant mind to other hands. Parents ought to be the best teachers of their children until they have reached eight or ten years of age. Their schoolroom should be the open air, amid the flowers and birds, and their textbook the treasure of nature.” [1890, as quoted in Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 157]
However, many families (ours included) enjoy the experience so much, and find that their children do so well, that they end up homeschooling for years, often to the end of high school, though most at that point, if not before, seek out accredited materials, to help with college entrance. Homeschooling done well is no hindrance to college; some colleges seek out well-home-educated students.
Adventists, of course, have an answer to that as well: a fully-accredited, centrally-administered home education system called Griggs University and International Academy. (If you’re graying, like me, you remember this as Home Study Institute.) Here is its history, from the Andrews University website:
An educator named Frederick Griggs envisioned educating people around the world. His vision took shape in the establishment of The Fireside Correspondence School in 1909. The goal was to provide the benefits of an education to those unable to attend traditional schools. Within two years, The Fireside Correspondence School was offering 11 secondary and 9 college courses. By 1916 its students represented nearly every state and province in North America, as well as 10 other countries.
Later the school was renamed Home Study Institute, then Home Study International, and most recently, Griggs University and International Academy. Since founding, nearly a half million people have studied with us. Today Griggs plays a unique and vital role in the educational development of students of all ages in all parts of the world.
Griggs is part of the Seventh-day Adventist school system. In 1990 the Griggs Board of Directors assigned names to its three academic divisions: Home Study Elementary School, Home Study High School, and Griggs University. In 1991, Griggs began offering college degrees to international students who have no access to an Adventist campus.
Today there are thousands of Adventist families all over the world who teach their children at home. Some of these do it by necessity; others would choose it in any case. For these families, at least in the US and Canada, there is likely a group within reach, if not, online resources are endless. If you are or would like to be a home educator, and you would like to know if there is a specifically Adventist group in your area, call your local conference office and ask. And God bless your work!