Stop the Madness

December 28, 2009

by Tammy Drennan

Walter Williams reports: 77% of Detroit’s 8th graders score below basic. Other urban schools not much different. “What’s to be done about this tragic state of black education?”

If the state had taken on the responsibility of feeding your children but it became clear it was starving them, or feeding them a diet so deficient in nutrition they were becoming ill, what would you do?

Would you demand they do better? March? Picket? Sue?

Maybe you’d do all those things. But how many days would you let your children go hungry without feeding them yourself? One, two, seven, a year? Five years?

Urban schools across the nation are literally starving children — intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually — dooming them to a lifetime of struggle and hopelessness.

Should children be transferred out of these hell holes? Absolutely. Immediately.

But that’s not going to happen. It’s been the cry and battle of reformers for decades, and one generation after another has been burned on the altar of government money and control and do-gooder self-satisfaction.

How much longer, parents? How much longer, churches? How many more children, reformers? How many more young lives are worth sacrificing in this war to make government pay?

It’s time to stop playing the reform game while children languish and die, their minds and lives and futures decimated by politicians, special interests and dollar signs.

Parents, Relatives, Family — you are the most responsible, your children’s greatest defense. Band together with one another, with your church leaders, with your communities. Take your children back.

Other people may want to help, but it’s up to you to act first. The only thing that matters is the well-being of your children — now. Right now.

Churches, stop playing footsie with public schools. Create a better way, better options. Where is the leadership, the courage, the honesty? Step up to the plate. Stop letting the state turn children into a third-world mission field.

There is an answer. And it’s not public schools. All the dreaming and screaming and scheming in the world will not make it work.

The answer is parents, family, community, churches.

Say no to the state. Take your children back. Stop the madness.


Education: A Christian Perspective

July 20, 2009

by Tammy Drennan

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has been running a feature in The Homeschool Minute e-newsletter in which people share their top ten reasons to stick with the homeschool journey. The entries range from funny to touching to philosophical, and they all serve the excellent purpose of encouragement.

But there’s really only one reason for the Christian to reject public schooling – God did not give you children to house and feed on behalf of the government.

God gave you children to house, feed, nurture and educate on behalf of none other than himself. He stamped your children with his image, not Caesar’s, and not even the church’s. Then he placed those God-stamped children in your care with the profound and serious call to rear them to be God-obsessed – to honor and love and obey God, to think about him and follow him day and night, to long and work to become more like him, to grow into ambassadors for him.

God placed your children in your hands to ensure that as they grow his image becomes sharper and more pronounced in them, clearer, and unblurred.

The goal of public schools has absolutely nothing to do with God. However “good” a school might be (and what does that mean?), it aims to shape your child into something that neither considers nor needs God to navigate life. God is simply not relevant to the image public schools work to stamp on your child.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking they are not trying to stamp your child with any image at all. Education has a purpose, no matter who is doing it. Educators, be they in schools or be they you, are pursuing the shaping of children for some purpose. That purpose may be good citizenship, a workforce to promote the vision of the state for the future, the dream of a nation that beats all other nations on tests, or the desire to rear up a new generation of men and women doggedly in pursuit of God and his excellence.

Some people believe they see signs that God has called them to choose government education for their children. Maybe they get a flier in the mail that offers free state virtual school for their children. Or maybe the local high school has an excellent sports program that an athletically gifted son would like to take advantage of, or an incredible music program that might open doors for a talented daughter. Maybe it’s the school’s lab for your science-oriented child or the art program for your budding painter or sculptor.

Do not make the mistake of taking these things as signs. They are temptations. They leave God out of the equation, and God never gives us the option of leaving him out of any equation, above all the equation of education.

If it is God’s design for your son to have a football career or for your daughter to become a famous singer, he will make a way. But don’t be surprised if he has not chosen these paths for your children, talent notwithstanding. Think of Eric Liddell* and his incredible gift of speed, yet his work for God led him to minister in China, where he ended up in a Japanese internment camp during World War Two and gave to others until illness cost him his earthly life. God may want to use a beautiful singing voice in an orphanage in Romania rather than in concert halls and on CD labels. Don’t mistake American ideals and definitions of success for Biblical ones.

God’s definition of success has nothing to do with America’s definition of success. The two may sometimes be compatible, but that is because America submits to God’s view and not the other way around. God’s ways are not our ways, and all too often our ways are not God’s ways.

This article would not be complete without addressing the very real problem of those who find themselves with no choice but government schooling. There are fewer than many think – there are plenty of people who think or claim, for any number of reasons, they have no choice who really do. They may have their priorities mixed up or they may be sincerely misjudging their situation.

But there are some who truly do not have a choice. This does not mean that God has ordained government schooling for their children. It means that fellow believers and churches have failed in their role to nurture and provide for their own, to secure the kingdom of God before turning to woo the world to God’s ways. It is not a reflection on God’s ways but a sad sign of our misplaced priorities. Our job is to set our priorities, as individuals and as churches, in line with God’s priorities and remedy the situation.

Finally, it is impossible to talk about this topic without also addressing the “salt and light” issue – the idea that God is calling us to make missionaries of our children.

Has God called any parent to send a child into an ungodly culture for the express purpose of fitting that child for life yet also for the purpose of having that child try to turn the culture on its heels and convince it that it is on the wrong path? How is it we send our children into a culture to be both shaped by it and to change its shape, to be educated by it and to educate it, to respect its leaders and get along with its followers yet reject what they stand for and how they live?

God does not even call adult missionaries to embrace the tutelage of pagan cultures while trying to also change them. Does the world of public schooling need a missions outreach? No doubt. Has God called us to send forth our children as missionaries disguised as students to do the job? We know he has not and that we do not seriously believe that in sending our children to state schools we are actually enacting the Great Commission.

May we pursue more avidly the godly nurture and education of our children and may we take more seriously our duty to help others do the same.

Before It’s Too Late

January 7, 2009

by Tammy Drennan

Is there a window of opportunity for choosing freedom? A window that, ignored, will close and open again only by force?


Andre Trocme was a courageous man who rallied his village and risked his life to save the lives of thousands of Jews during Hitler’s Holocaust. He was also a life-long pacifist.


When Andre was a young man, he served in the French army during World War I. One day he was sent on a mapping mission with 24 other men. He was issued a gun for the mission but left it behind because of his pacifist convictions.


When the mapping crew arrived at its location, Andre’s commander discovered that Andre was without a weapon. He reprimanded the young soldier for endangering the entire crew with his belated commitment to his conscience.


“The lieutenant told Trocme that his refusal to bear arms had come too late. He already embarked on a military campaign; he was already committed. He should have refused at the very beginning, when he could have avoided making the march into the desert. With his whole mind and his body he should have made his choice sooner, in time.”


Trocme did not forget this lesson of his youth. Timing matters. The sooner you stand on your convictions the better the outcome. The longer you wait, the harder you make it on yourself – and often on others. Sometimes the hardships are disastrous.


When Hitler took over France, Trocme’s home village of Le Chambon fell under the Vichy leaders who worked at the behest of Germany. Citizens were commanded to take an oath of absolute allegiance to this new government. Trocme refused from the outset. He did not give the government time to feel its strength. He did not give it a chance to become accustomed to bullying him.


Not only did Andre Trocme position himself with an advantage over the people who wished to crush all he stood for, he strengthened his own resolve with every act of independence – and there were many to come. Further, his early and uncompromising actions set the tone for the entire village – it showed them it could be done and it infused them with courage.


The greatest illegitimate authority in America today is our public school system. It robs us of our independence, of our children and our future.


Those who say no to this system from the outset, who never entangle themselves with its demands and controls, are the ones who suffer the least from its aggressions. These are the people who set an example for others, who show that freedom is doable and that any sacrifices involved are well worth it.


But most people find themselves compromised and entangled early on, and they come to embrace convictions late in the game, when acting on those convictions is hard – hard because they have little practice, hard because they are already ensnared by a system that doesn’t want to let them go and that assumes its authority over them because they have conceded it for so long.


It is certainly best to know your convictions early and to stand on them from the start. But we all make mistakes. The best time to remedy our mistakes is now, before the situation gets any worse.


And the situation is getting worse. Every year, government at all levels assumes more authority over the lives of our children and thus over the future that will be America. We are no longer a land “of the people, by the people and for the people.” We are a land “of the government, by the government and for the government.”


But the window of opportunity is still open a crack. We still live under the protection of our Constitution. It’s not as strong as it once was, but it’s still just strong enough to shield us so we can take that first step into freedom.


As more of us choose freedom, our community and solidarity will protect us from usurpers of legitimate authority, and it will strengthen our Constitution and the laws of our land that guard against tyranny of both body and conscience.


Many have stepped into the war innocently, not thinking ahead about the repercussions of government schooling. Others have lunged head-long into the war, thinking they can shape into their own image a system that shares none of their values or convictions. And a significant number are simply trapped by default – they have no choice at the moment.


We need more Harriet Tubmans in the world – those who see the wrong for what it is and take daring risks to right it. We need more Andre Trocmes – those who say no to illegitimate authority from the outset, then stand by their convictions come what may. This is how freedom is won and kept.


We can be thankful for those who ease the suffering of the enslaved, we can even try to ease that suffering ourselves, but ultimately, bondage only turns into freedom when it ends.

Do Hard Things: The Parent Version

October 7, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


One of our frequent visitors, Frances, has more than once recommended the book “Do Hard Things” by Alex and Brett Harris. I finally bought and read it.


Alex and Brett are twin teen boys, the sons of Gregg Harris of homeschool conference fame and brothers of Josh Harris, who gained a nice amount of fame himself for his book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”


The premise of the twins’ book and web site is that society sets expectations far too low for teens, that teens are capable of great things, not only in the realm of action but in the realm of spirituality, morality and every other aspect of life.


It’s a simply written book, but even the mature reader will, by the end of the book, find him/herself doing some soul-searching and thinking about what sort of hard or harder things he/she might tackle. I know I did.


As I flipped the last page of the book and sat reflecting, I thought to myself that it is not only teens that society sets such low expectations for – it’s parents, too.


Few people, including many family advocacy groups, really expect parents to rise to a level of excellence in the rearing of their children. Instead, we make excuses: Just muddle along and you’ll get through the toddler/tween/teen years. Make time for yourself. Let go. Don’t worry about sullen attitudes, hideous clothes, rotten music, the general low quality and moral emptiness of everything shoveled at children today – it’s all just a normal part of growing up.


Contrast this with some of the ways many parents reared children in pre-state schooling days, when they considered the formation of the next generation a personal responsibility. John Adams and many other founders and leaders of America’s early days took time for serious conversations with their children about life and the sort of people they wished to see them become.


When they had to be away from home, they parented by correspondence. There was no excuse to neglect the solemn duty of shaping a child’s character and preparing him or her to be a credit to her family and an asset to his fellow travelers.


Even among the more common folk, parents advised their children on life and expected them to behave in honorable ways. Not every parent did, of course – that has never and never will happen. Yet reading through journals and letters of the era you cannot help but be struck by the seriousness with which parents took their role and children took their parents’ advice.


Over the years, the state has increasingly robbed parents of their role as mentors of their children and shapers of the future. Worse, it has reared new generations of parents who need not be robbed – they turn their children over quite willingly and accept all of our now numb society’s low expectations for both their children and for themselves as parents.


But, as the Harris twins point out, there is a rumbling in the land, a dissatisfaction with mediocrity and emptiness. The rumbling is not just among teenagers but also among parents. Parents want their children back. They want their role as parents back.


But taking back so much responsibility is a hard thing. And we must be willing to accept the challenges of doing hard things.


To that end, I recommend Alex and Brett’s book, even for parents – maybe especially for parents. It’s time to do a hard thing — and the right thing — and reject society’s low expectations of parents and the state’s definition of childhood.


It’s time to parent like we mean it.


A Victory & A Warning

August 9, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


Opinion supports legality of homeschooling, but…






August 8, 2008


The good news from the California Court of Appeal considering the case that has threatened the legal status of homeschooling in the Golden State is:


“We will conclude that: (1) California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education…”


But… the court also had this to say:


“It is important to recognize that it is not for us to consider, as a matter of policy, whether home schooling should be permitted in California. That job is for the Legislature.”


The court opinion then goes on to outline the history of California’s laws about homeschooling.


1903: Compulsory attendance law is passed “expressly permitting” homeschooling


1929: Homeschooling amended out of law and allowed only by credentialed tutor


1953: The 1929 decision is confirmed in case law


1961: The 1929 decision is again confirmed in case law


2008: “However, subsequent developments in the law call this conclusion into question. Although the Legislature did not amend the statutory scheme so as to expressly permit home schooling, more recent enactments demonstrate an apparent acceptance by the Legislature of the proposition that home schooling is taking place in California, with home schools allowed as private schools. Recent statutes indicate that the Legislature is aware that some parents in California home school their children by declaring their homes to be private schools. Moreover, several statutory enactments indicate a legislative approval of home schooling, by exempting home schools from requirements otherwise applicable to private schools.”


You get the very strong impression from the court’s opinion that they don’t really approve of homeschooling but that it’s up to the legislature to do something about it.


This court opinion is a warning as well as a victory. The warning is for everyone who supports any sort of independence in education. The state and the courts look with deep suspicion on parents who want to rear their children as they see fit.


This is a time to fully embrace our adulthood and move away from our infantile dependence on the state to help educate our children. It’s time to cut the apron strings that tie us to a power-hungry, dysfunctional mother who will stop at nothing to keep us helpless little children. It is time to choose freedom, before the courts and legislatures impose bondage.


“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” – Thomas Paine, from The Crisis



The Illness of State Schooling

August 3, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


I’ve been reading over teacher blogs lately with all their blather about kids needing to read about people “they can relate to” (meaning children and teenagers suffering from various forms of dysfunction and anxiety), and I wondered what I’ve wondered many times:


Isn’t education about learning to relate to all sorts of people – and further, how hard can it be to relate to another human being, so long as the person is/was not severely psychotic or so aberrant in behavior that the average person should not be able to relate to him or her?


I remember in 7th grade coming upon a book about George Washington Carver. He lived in an age far different from mine, unlike me he had been a slave, unlike me he was male, unlike me he was black, unlike me he was a scientist… the list could go on for some time. Yet I connected with this man’s life from the first page.


I went on to read many, many biographies of people completely unlike me, with nary a hitch in my cultural-connection gitalong. As a matter of fact, I found the stories exciting. Just look at what these extraordinary people did, at what they overcame, at how they excelled. What bored me after this taste of high reality and possibility were depressing stories of teen angst and mundane or unredeemed lives.


This is one more symptom of the illness called state schooling — its never-ending downward spiral into the abyss of mediocrity, meaninglessness and hopelessness. The practitioners, often out of ignorance, fail to administer the medicines that can cure the baser aspects of the human condition – examples of lives well-lived and ideals upheld, of overcoming not only economic hardship but moral shortcomings.


 I want the children I love to read about people they can admire and emulate. I want them to read about lives that will excite them with hope and possibility. This is what children read before state schools got their hands on them.


The bottom line is that state schooling messes up everything it gets its hands on. It’s messed up our children’s education, their morals, their cultural connectedness, and more recently, their health. Is there anything left?


It’s time to stop the madness.


Is This a Sane Way to Rear Children?

July 20, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


My brother John and his wife Jill* have had their kids in Christian school for fifteen years. Their school bill at its peak was $15,000 a year – not bad for four children, but still a big chunk of money. They remained true to their commitment even the year John was hardly able to work due to some surgery.


This year their bill is lower – only $5000 – but times have been tough and they weren’t sure how they’d raise the money. Then someone from their church heard about their need and footed the whole bill.


I’m deeply thankful to that donor and extremely proud of my brother for his long-term commitment to his children’s education.


The school my brother’s children attend is clearly doing something right, as I recently learned first-hand. They found themselves in a financial crisis to the tune of $250,000. I helped the fundraising effort by setting up a donation web site. I was immensely impressed by all the comments and pledges submitted to the site by parents of students (people already paying tuition), former students, and teachers (who are already working for far lower than market wages).


Private, Christian education is not a matter of “if we can manage it” to these people – it’s their top priority for their children. It’s an integral part of their lives.


School isn’t someplace they send the kids off to in the morning and pick them up from at night – it’s an extension of their homes and the principles and values they wish to instill in their children. They expect their school to reinforce their values and they facilitate the process. School is hands-on for these parents. And the time they put in is not in trying to keep the school from harming their children; instead, school and family are engaged in a joint effort toward the same goals.


Now look at the typical Christian interaction with public schools. The kids are in state schools and the parents and their churches and endless Christian organizations and activists are working their fingers to the bone trying to counteract the effects of their children’s schooling. For twelve+ years of their children’s lives, public school parents do battle with the people they’ve chosen to help shape those children’s intellects, emotions, social and moral practices, and worldviews. The battle rages on year after year, the children pulled one way then another. Legislators and unions and courts and social activists and psychologists and the medical profession and thousands of other organizations and individuals weigh in on the conflict.


Does this sound like a sane way to rear children? It seems we’ve drifted so far from sanity that when we see it – when we see a situation where school and parents respect one another and have identical goals – we view that as odd, even as unnatural.


And in the meantime, we continue to run our children through the gamut of state schooling where grasping hands claw from every doorway and try to dig their nails into innocent minds and souls and drag them into their camps to devour them.


Some good soul cared enough about my brother’s children to make a sacrifice for their future. Many of us cannot manage such a large contribution, but I think we can all find some way to help a family choose independence. If we have no money at all, we can encourage, share a story about a dedicated family, help with chores or babysitting, tutor, teach a skill or class. If we have money, we can contribute some where we think it will do the most good.


It’s going to take all of us working together to slay the many-headed monster that’s eating our children alive, but I believe we’re up to the task.


*Names changed for privacy purposes.