Fundamentals of Christian Education


Chapter 19—Home Education

The work of the mother is an important one. Amid the homely cares and trying duties of everyday life, she should endeavor to exert an influence that will bless and elevate her household. In the children committed to her care, every mother has a sacred charge from the heavenly Father; and it is her privilege, through the grace of Christ, to mold their characters after the divine pattern, to shed an influence over their lives that will draw them toward God and heaven. If mothers had always realized their responsibility, and made it their first purpose, their most important mission, to fit their children for the duties of this life and for the honors of the future immortal life, we would not see the misery that now exists in so many homes in our land. The mother's work is such that it demands continual advancement in her own life, in order that she may lead her children to higher and still higher attainments. But Satan lays his plans to secure the souls of both parents and children. Mothers are drawn away from the duties of home and the careful training of their little ones, to the service of self and the world. Vanity, fashion, and matters of minor importance are allowed to absorb the attention, and the physical and moral education of the precious children is neglected. FE 149.1

If she makes the customs and practices of the world her criterion, the mother will become unfitted for the responsible duties of her lot. If fashion holds her in bondage, it will weaken her powers of endurance, and make life a wearing burden instead of a blessing. Through physical weakness she may fail to appreciate the value of the opportunities that are hers, and her family may be left to grow up without the benefit of her thought, her prayers, and her diligent instruction. If mothers would only consider the wonderful privileges that God has given them, they would not be so easily turned aside from their sacred duties to the trivial affairs of the world. FE 149.2

The mother's work begins with the babe in her arms. I have often seen the little one throw itself and scream, if its will was crossed in any way. This is the time to rebuke the evil spirit. The enemy will try to control the minds of our children, but shall we allow him to mold them according to his will? These little ones cannot discern what spirit is influencing them, and it is the duty of the parents to exercise judgment and discretion for them. Their habits must be carefully watched. Evil tendencies are to be restrained, and the mind stimulated in favor of the right. The child should be encouraged in every effort to govern itself. FE 150.1

Regularity should be the rule in all the habits of children. Mothers make a great mistake in permitting them to eat between meals. The stomach becomes deranged by this practice, and the foundation is laid for future suffering. Their fretfulness may have been caused by unwholesome food, still undigested; but the mother feels that she cannot spend time to reason upon the matter and correct her injurious management. Neither can she stop to soothe their impatient worrying. She gives the little sufferers a piece of cake or some other dainty to quiet them, but this only increases the evil. Some mothers, in their anxiety to do a great amount of work, get wrought up into such nervous haste that they are more irritable than the children, and by scolding and even blows they try to terrify the little ones into quietude. FE 150.2

Mothers often complain of the delicate health of their children, and consult the physician, when, if they would but exercise a little common sense, they would see that the trouble is caused by errors in diet. FE 150.3

We are living in an age of gluttony, and the habits to which the young are educated, even by many Seventh-day Adventists, are in direct opposition to the laws of nature. I was seated once at the table with several children under twelve years of age. Meat was plentifully served, and then a delicate, nervous girl called for pickles. A bottle of chow-chow, fiery with mustard and pungent with spices, was handed her, from which she helped herself freely. The child was proverbial for her nervousness and irritability of temper, and these fiery condiments were well calculated to produce such a condition. The oldest child thought he could not eat a meal without meat, and showed great dissatisfaction, and even disrespect, if it was not provided for him. The mother had indulged him in his likes and dislikes till she had become little better than a slave to his caprices. The lad had not been provided with work, and he spent the greater portion of his time in reading that which was useless or worse than useless. He complained almost constantly of headache, and had no relish for simple food. FE 150.4

Parents should provide employment for their children. Nothing will be a more sure source of evil than indolence. Physical labor that brings healthful weariness to the muscles, will give an appetite for simple, wholesome food, and the youth who is properly employed will not rise from the table grumbling because he does not see before him a platter of meat and various dainties to tempt his appetite. FE 151.1

Jesus, the Son of God, in laboring with His hands at the carpenter's trade, gave an example to all youth. Let those who scorn to take up the common duties of life remember that Jesus was subject to His parents, and contributed His share toward the sustenance of the family. Few luxuries were seen on the table of Joseph and Mary, for they were among the poor and lowly. FE 151.2

Parents should be an example to their children in the expenditure of money. There are those who, as soon as they get money, spend it for dainties to eat, or for needless adornments of dress, and when the supply of money becomes reduced, they feel the need of that which they have wasted. If they have an abundant income, they use every dollar of it; if small, it is not sufficient for the habits of extravagance they have acquired, and they borrow to supply the demand. They gather from any source possible to meet their fancied necessities. They become dishonest and untruthful, and the record that stands against them in the books of heaven is such as they will not care to look upon in the day of judgment. The desire of the eye must be gratified, the craving of the appetite indulged, and they keep themselves poor by their improvident habits, when they might have learned to live within their means. Extravagance is one of the sins to which youth are prone. They despise economical habits, for fear they shall be thought niggardly and mean. What will Jesus, the Majesty of heaven, who has given them an example of patient industry and economy, say to such? FE 151.3

It is not necessary to specify here how economy may be practiced in every particular. Those whose hearts are fully surrendered to God, and who take His word as their guide, will know how to conduct themselves in all the duties of life. They will learn of Jesus, who is meek and lowly of heart; and in cultivating the meekness of Christ they will close the door against innumerable temptations. FE 152.1

They will not be studying how to gratify appetite and the passion for display, while so many cannot even keep hunger from the door. The amount daily spent in needless things, with the thought, “It is only a nickel,” “It is only a dime,” seems very little; but multiply these littles by the days of the year, and as the years go by, the array of figures will seem almost incredible. FE 152.2

The Lord has been pleased to present before me the evils which result from spendthrift habits, that I might admonish parents to teach their children strict economy. Teach them that money spent for that which they do not need, is perverted from its proper use. He that is unfaithful in that which is least, would be unfaithful in much. If men are unfaithful with earthly goods, they cannot be intrusted with the eternal riches. Set a guard over the appetite; teach your children by example as well as by precept to use a simple diet. Teach them to be industrious, not merely busy, but engaged in useful labor. Seek to arouse the moral sensibilities. Teach them that God has claims upon them, even from the early years of their childhood. Tell them that there are moral corruptions to be met on every hand, that they need to come to Jesus and give themselves to Him, body and spirit, and that in Him they will find strength to resist every temptation. Keep before their minds that they were not created merely to please themselves, but to be the Lord's agents for noble purposes. Teach them, when temptations urge into paths of selfish indulgence, when Satan is seeking to shut out God from their sight, to look to Jesus, pleading, “Save, Lord, that I be not overcome.” Angels will gather about them in answer to their prayers, and lead them into safe paths. FE 152.3

Christ prayed for His disciples, not that they should be taken out of the world, but that they should be kept from evil,—that they might be kept from yielding to the temptations they would meet on every hand. This is a prayer that should be offered up by every father and mother. But should they thus plead with God in behalf of their children, and then leave them to do as they please? Should they pamper the appetite until it gets the mastery, and then expect to restrain the children?—No; temperance and self-control should be taught from the very cradle up. Upon the mother must rest largely the responsibility of this work. The tenderest earthly tie is that between the mother and her child. The child is more readily impressed by the life and example of the mother than by that of the father, because of this stronger and more tender bond of union. Yet the mother's responsibility is a heavy one, and should have the constant aid of the father. FE 153.1

Intemperance in eating and drinking, intemperance in labor, intemperance in almost everything, exists on every hand. Those who make great exertions to accomplish just so much work in a given time, and continue to labor when their judgment tells them they should rest, are never gainers. They are living on borrowed capital. They are expending the vital force which they will need at a future time. And when the energy they have so recklessly used is demanded, they fail for want of it. The physical strength is gone, the mental powers fail. They realize that they have met with a loss, but do not know what it is. Their time of need has come, but their physical resources are exhausted. Every one who violates the laws of health must some time be a sufferer to a greater or less degree. God has provided us with constitutional force, which will be needed at different periods of our lives. If we recklessly exhaust this force by continual overtaxation, we shall sometime be losers. Our usefulness will be lessened, if not our life itself destroyed. FE 153.2

As a rule the labor of the day should not be prolonged into the evening. If all the hours of the day are well improved, the work extended into the evening is so much extra, and the overtaxed system will suffer from the burden imposed upon it. I have been shown that those who do this, often lose much more than they gain, for their energies are exhausted, and they labor on nervous excitement. They may not realize any immediate injury, but they are surely undermining their constitutions. FE 154.1

Let parents devote the evenings to their families. Lay off care and perplexity with the labors of the day. The husband and father would gain much if he would make it a rule not to mar the happiness of his family by bringing his business troubles home to fret and worry over. He may need the counsel of his wife in difficult matters, and they may both obtain relief in their perplexities by unitedly seeking wisdom of God; but to keep the mind constantly strained upon business affairs will injure the health of both mind and body. FE 154.2

Let the evenings be spent as happily as possible. Let home be a place where cheerfulness, courtesy, and love exist. This will make it attractive to the children. If the parents are continually borrowing trouble, are irritable and faultfinding, the children partake of the same spirit of dissatisfaction and contention, and home is the most miserable place in the world. The children find more pleasure among strangers, in reckless company, or in the street, than at home. All this might be avoided if temperance in all things were practiced, and patience cultivated. Self-control on the part of all the members of the family will make home almost a paradise. Make your rooms as cheerful as possible. Let the children find home the most attractive place on earth. Throw about them such influences that they will not seek for street companions, nor think of the haunts of vice except with horror. If the home life is what it should be, the habits formed there will be a strong defense against the assaults of temptation when the young shall leave the shelter of home for the world. FE 154.3

Do we build our houses for the happiness of the family, or merely for display? Do we provide pleasant, sunny rooms for our children, or do we keep them darkened and closed, reserving them for strangers who are not dependent on us for happiness? There is no nobler work that we can do, no greater benefit that we can confer upon society, than to give to our children a proper education, impressing upon them, by precept and example, the important principle that purity of life and sincerity of purpose will best qualify them to act their part in the world. FE 155.1

Our artificial habits deprive us of many privileges and much enjoyment, and unfit us for usefulness. A fashionable life is a hard, thankless life. How often time, money, and health are sacrificed, the patience sorely tried, and self-control lost, merely for the sake of display. If parents would cling to simplicity, not indulging in expense for the gratification of vanity, and to follow fashion; if they would maintain a noble independence in the right, unmoved by the influence of those who, while professing Christ, refuse to lift the cross of self-denial, they would by this example itself give their children an invaluable education. The children would become men and women of moral worth, and, in their turn, would have courage to stand bravely for the right, even against the current of fashion and popular opinion. FE 155.2

Every act of the parents tells on the future of the children. In devoting time and money to the outward adorning and the gratification of perverted appetite, they are cultivating vanity, selfishness, and lust in the children. Mothers complain of being so burdened with care and labor that they cannot take time patiently to instruct their little ones, and to sympathize with them in their disappointments and trials. Young hearts yearn for sympathy and tenderness, and if they do not obtain it from their parents, they will seek it from sources that may endanger both mind and morals. I have heard mothers refuse their children some innocent pleasure, for lack of time and thought, while their busy fingers and weary eyes were diligently engaged on some useless piece of adorning, something which could only serve to encourage vanity and extravagance in the children. “As the twig is bent, the tree is inclined.” As the children approach manhood and womanhood, these lessons bear fruit in pride and moral worthlessness. The parents deplore the children's faults, but are blind to the fact that they are but reaping the crop from seed of their own planting. FE 156.1

Christian parents, take up your life burden, and think candidly of the sacred obligations that rest upon you. Make the word of God your standard, instead of following the fashions and customs of the world, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. The future happiness of your families and the welfare of society depend largely upon the physical and moral education which your children receive in the first years of their life. If their tastes and habits are as simple in all things as they should be, if the dress is tidy, without extra adornment, mothers will find time to make their children happy, and teach them loving obedience. FE 156.2

Do not send your little ones away to school too 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. As fast as their minds can comprehend it, the parents should open before them God's great book of nature. These lessons, given amid such surroundings, will not soon be forgotten. Great pains should be taken to prepare the soil of the heart for the Sower to scatter the good seed. If half the time and labor that is now worse than wasted in following the fashions of the world, were devoted to the cultivation of the minds of the children, to the formation of correct habits, a marked change would be apparent in families. FE 156.3

Not long since I heard a mother say that she liked to see a house fitly constructed, that defects in the arrangement and mismatched woodwork in the finishing annoyed her. I do not condemn nice taste in this respect, but as I listened to her, I regretted that this nicety could not have been brought into her methods of managing her children. These were buildings for whose framing she was responsible; yet their rough, uncourteous ways, their passionate, selfish natures, and uncontrolled wills, were painfully apparent to others. Ill-formed characters, mismatched pieces of humanity, indeed they were, yet the mother was blind to it all. The arrangement of her house was of more consequence to her than the symmetry of her children's character. FE 157.1

Cleanliness and order are Christian duties, yet even these may be carried too far, and made the one essential, while matters of greater importance are neglected. Those who neglect the interests of the children for these considerations are tithing the mint and cummin, while they neglect the weightier matters of the law,—justice, mercy, and the love of God. FE 157.2

Those children who are the most indulged become willful, passionate, and unlovely. Would that parents could realize that upon judicious, early training depends the happiness of both the parents and the children. Who are these little ones that are committed to our care? They are the younger members of the Lord's family. “Take this son, this daughter,” He says, “nurse them for me, and fit them up ‘that they may be polished after the similitude of a palace,’ that they may shine in the courts of the Lord.” Precious work! Important work! Yet we see mothers sighing for a wider field of labor, for some missionary work to do. If they could only go to Africa or India, they would feel that they were doing something. But to take up the little daily duties of life, and to carry them forward faithfully, perseveringly, seems to them an unimportant thing. Why is this? Is it not often because the mother's work is so rarely appreciated? She has a thousand cares and burdens of which the father seldom has any knowledge. Too often he returns home bringing with him his cares and business perplexities to overshadow the family, and if he does not find everything just to his mind at home, he gives expression to his feelings in impatience and faultfinding. He can boast of what he has achieved through the day, but the mother's work, to his mind, amounts to little, or is at least undervalued. To him her cares appear trifling. She has only to cook the meals, look after the children, sometimes a large family of them, and keep the house in order. She has tried all day to keep the domestic machinery running smoothly. She has tried, though tired and perplexed, to speak kindly and cheerfully, and to instruct the children and keep them in the right path. All this has cost effort, and much patience on her part. She cannot, in her turn, boast of what she has done. It seems to her as though she has accomplished nothing. But it is not so. Though the results of her work are not apparent, angels of God are watching the careworn mother, noting the burdens she carries from day to day. Her name may never appear upon the records of history, or receive the honor and applause of the world, as may that of the husband and father; but it is immortalized in the book of God. She is doing what she can, and her position in God's sight is more exalted than that of a king upon his throne; for she is dealing with character, she is fashioning minds. FE 157.3

The mothers of the present day are making the society of the future. How important that their children be so brought up that they shall be able to resist the temptations they will meet on every side in later life! FE 159.1

Whatever may be his calling and its perplexities, let the father take into his home the same smiling countenance and pleasant tones with which he has all day greeted visitors and strangers. Let the wife feel that she can lean upon the large affections of her husband,—that his arms will strengthen and uphold her through all her toils and cares, that his influence will sustain hers, and her burden will lose half its weight. Are the children not his as well as hers? FE 159.2

Let the father seek to lighten the mother's task. In the time that he would devote to selfish enjoyment of leisure, let him seek to become acquainted with his children—associate with them in their sports, in their work. Let him point them to the beautiful flowers, the lofty trees, in whose very leaves they can trace the work and love of God. He should teach them that the God who made all these things loves the beautiful and the good. Christ pointed His disciples to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, showing how God cares for them, and presented this as an evidence that He will care for man, who is of higher consequence than birds and flowers. Tell the children that however much time may be wasted in attempts at display, our appearance can never compare, for grace and beauty, with that of the simplest flowers of the field. Thus their minds may be drawn from the artificial to the natural. They may learn that God has given them all these beautiful things to enjoy, and that He wants them to give Him the heart's best and holiest affections. FE 159.3

Parents should seek to awaken in their children an interest in the study of physiology. Youth need to be instructed in regard to their own bodies. There are but few among the young who have any definite knowledge of the mysteries of life. The study of the wonderful human organism, the relation and dependence of all its complicated parts, is one in which most mothers take little if any interest. They do not understand the influence of the body upon the mind, or of the mind upon the body. They occupy themselves with needless trifles, and then plead that they have no time to obtain the information which they need in order to care properly for the health of their children. It is less trouble to trust them to the doctors. Thousands of children die through ignorance of the laws of their being. FE 159.4

If parents themselves would obtain knowledge upon this subject and feel the importance of putting it to a practical use, we should see a better condition of things. Teach your children to reason from cause to effect. Show them that if they violate the laws of their being, they must pay the penalty by suffering. If you cannot see as rapid improvement as you desire, do not be discouraged, but instruct them patiently, and press on until victory is gained. Continue to teach them in regard to their own bodies, and how to take care of them. Recklessness in regard to bodily health tends to recklessness in morals. FE 160.1

Do not neglect to teach your children how to prepare healthful food. In giving them these lessons in physiology and in good cooking, you are giving them the first steps in some of the most useful branches of education, and inculcating principles which are needful elements in a religious education. FE 160.2

All the lessons of which I have spoken in this article are needed. If properly heeded, they will be like a bulwark that will preserve our children from the evils which are flooding the world. We want temperance at our tables. We want houses where the God-given sunlight and the pure air of heaven are welcomed. We want a cheerful, happy influence in our homes. We must cultivate useful habits in our children, and must instruct them in the things of God. It costs something to do all this. It costs prayers and tears, and patient, oft-repeated instruction. We are sometimes put to our wit's end to know what to do; but we can take the children to God in our prayers, pleading that they may be kept from evil, praying, “Now, Lord, do Thy work; soften and subdue the hearts of our children,” and He will hear us. He hearkens to the prayers of the weeping, careworn mothers. When Christ was on earth, the burdened mothers brought their children to Him; they thought that if He would lay His hands upon them, they would have better courage to bring them up as they ought to go. The Saviour knew why these mothers came to Him with their little ones, and He rebuked the disciples, who would have kept them away, saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.” Jesus loves the little ones, and He is watching to see how parents are doing their work. FE 160.3

Iniquity abounds on every hand, and if the children are saved, earnest, persevering effort must be put forth. Christ has said, “I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified.” He wanted His disciples to be sanctified, and He made Himself their example, that they might follow Him. What if fathers and mothers should take this same position, saying, “I want my children to have steadfast principles, and I will give them an example of this in my life”? Let the mother think no sacrifice too great, if made for the salvation of her household. Remember, Jesus gave His life for the purpose of rescuing you and yours from ruin. You will have His sympathy and help in this blessed work, and will be a laborer together with God. FE 161.1

In whatever else we may fail, let us be thorough in the work for our children. If they go forth from the home training, pure and virtuous, if they fill the least and lowest place in God's great plan of good for the world, our life work can never be called a failure.—Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 60-72, 1890. FE 161.2