A Call for a Reformed Christian Philosophy of Education

4 books

Dear Reader,

It’s a new year and I have decided to pursue a new direction in this blog. To the extent that I have had a direction thus far, it has been to discuss homeschooling and particularly the Charlotte Mason approach. This blog has always been my own way to work out my thoughts. Now I have a few thoughts, or seeds of thoughts, and I would like to pursue them more single-mindedly.

Ideas matter. In the realm of education, what this means is that the ideas that lie behind any particular approach to education have consequences. Years ago, I did this series on different approaches to homeschooling.  I found that each, consciously or not, makes two big assumptions: They all have something to say about the nature of the child, and thereby about all human nature; and, in defining the goal of education, they all say something about the purpose of life itself. Observing my own children and other homeschooled kids, I have come to believe that these ideas not only lie behind what we do, they work themselves out in what we do. In other words, ideas matter because they have consequences.

Though I began as a more eclectic homeschooler, over time I was drawn to the Charlotte Mason approach to education. In many ways it fit my own ideas. There have always been aspects of her thought that did not sit right with me, however. As I have read and studied Charlotte’s own words more, this discomfort has not decreased but has become more focused. As I understand her better, I see our differences more clearly. While there are parts of Charlotte’s philosophy that I find quite biblical and while I do not at all doubt her own faith, there are also aspects which I cannot reconcile with my own (reformed Christian) theology. (You can read specifics here.)

I think many homeschooling parents have done as I have; we look at what is available to us, choose what seems best, tweak as needed, and proceed more or less blindly feeling our way. I want something different. I want a philosophy of education that begins from a Scriptural foundation. I want it to incorporate a reformed view of human nature and to say how that affects how we educate children, both the children of believers and other children. And I want it to place the goal of education within God’s plan for humanity.

My resolution for the coming year is to start this process by reading, writing about and posting on anything and everything related to the topic of reformed Christian education. Though we must begin with the theoretical, as a homeschooling parent, I hope that we will be able to move into the practical as well.

So what can you expect? I am hoping you all can help me with that by suggesting books, articles and sermons. In the short term, here are some of the posts I am planning for the next months:

  • Why we need not a philosophy but a theology of education
  • Rules of the game: Principles of biblical interpretation, or how is she going to go about this anyway?
  • A Charlotte Mason education: why it is not enough 😦
  • The elephant in the room, or why not Christian classical
  • Implicit Assumptions in Modern American Education
  • J.G. Vos on Education
  • The Puritans on Education
  • Jewish Education
  • Erasmus, Luther, Calvin and Strum (that’s four separate posts, at least)

Until next time,



21 responses to this post.

  1. Fascinated to follow this journey. I’ve read you for years; recently we started our journey towards reformed theology and I’m seeing some of the frictions you’ve mentioned. I don’t comment much but know you’re always triggering my thinking.


  2. Posted by Becky on January 14, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Yes! I would describe myself as a CM homeschooler, but I agree that her theology is not reformed but have not been able to clearly think through what aspects of her method I would change. I would love to know what you are reading and read along with you through this project.

    You must find a copy of Van Til’s “Essays on Christian Education”! I find him very hard to understand–he assumes you know so much already–really I feel like I’ve barely grazed the surface of what he is saying. He lays out very clearly why you can’t combine classical and Christian, too. Eventually I hope to be able to articulate a clear theology of Christian education, and work out practical implications too.


    • Thanks for commenting, Becky. I will look for Van Til’s Book. I have some ideas of where I am going with all this but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. There is a lot to think through. JG Vos has a good little booklet on education which I will discuss in a couple of weeks. I know you can get it from Crown and Covenant Publications. I don’t have one book I am working through. Next on my reading list is The Crisis of Western Education by Dawson.


  3. Posted by Jael Bischof on January 16, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Wow!!! That is great. A lot of work. I am really looking forward to your Posts. I am reading “Grosse Didaktik” by Johann Amos Comenius. That is very inspiring. For sure it is available in English, too.

    May God richly bless your work.


  4. […] is part of an ongoing series on reformed theology and education. You can find part 1 here and part 2 […]


  5. […] far we have talked about why we need a reformed Christian philosophy of education, why we need a theology of education, how we should decide on such a theology, and what we can […]


  6. […] is part of an ongoing series in which I explore a reformed Christian philosophy of education. Thus far, we are still on […]


  7. […] and I am glad I read it as it gave me some new things to think about and new avenues to pursue on my current venture. I am not calling it a must read but if you have some spare time, it is not a bad […]


  8. […] this point we have been addressing the why, i.e. Why do we even need a theology of education (see this post and this one) and why isn’t what we already have good enough (see these posts on public […]


  9. […] This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed Christian theology of education. You can find the intro post here. […]


  10. […] my continuing quest for a reformed theology of education (see this post and this one), I have been focusing on special revelation — i.e. what God tells us in His […]


  11. I cannot tell you how overjoyed I am to find your blog. I am only 2 years into homeschooling and while, like you, drawn to the CM philosophies in many ways, am uneasy with some of her core philosophical tenants in how they relate to a Biblical worldview. In frustration I googled “is CM biblical?” and found your EXCELLENT series on the issue, in which you fleshed out beautifully my very own thoughts and concerns. I have been feeling precisely the same way this year: of all of these homeschooling approaches, where is the Biblical model? Im mostly reform in my theology as well so I am delighted to follow your blog and this journey you are on towards a Biblical education philosophy. Thank you!


    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is always encouraging to know there are people out there actually reading it 😉 As I read more books from reformed writers from the last 50 years or so I am amazed that they were saying the same things in the 70s or 80s or 90s about the need for a reformed view of education and yet we as a group don’t seem to have moved towards anything more comprehensive.


  12. […] This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. Read the intro post here. […]


  13. […] a part of my ongoing quest for a reformed Christian theology of education, I recently read Rousas John Rushdoony’s The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum […]


  14. […] a part of my ongoing quest for a reformed Christian philosophy theology of education, I recently read Teaching and Christian […]


  15. […] my ongoing series in search of a reformed Christian theology of education. Read its justifications here and […]


  16. […] of an ongoing series in search of a reformed Christian theology of education. Find the intro posts here and […]


  17. […] began this series in January by arguing that we need a distinctively reformed Christian approach to education.   It is now July and we have looked at a number of different issues. I would like to try and […]


  18. […] So I guess my conclsuion on this episode is that I like a lot of what the panelists had to say. I was surprised, in fact, to find myself agreeing so much with them. I am less convinced that how they explain the situation is how Miss Mason herself saw things. I still think we need a philsophy of education which considers all children — whether from believing parents or not — and which finds its origins in a reformed understanding of human nature and the purpose of life. […]


  19. […] about the nature of man and about his ends, is an inherently theological enterprise (see here, here, and […]


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