Following the Rabbi: Biblical Unschooling

Anyone who has journeyed down the road of Christian Unschooling has been met with evangelical opposition at one point or another. I recently heard a conservative pastor say that it was a “violation of scripture.” Obviously, I disagree and think his opinion is based on a few misconceptions (as are most people’s when it comes to unschooling).

So imagine my delight when I picked up an interesting book this week called Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith. It’s about understanding the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time, traditions, and way of life so that you can understand the impact of some of the things that He did and said in a Jewish context.

But that’s not what this post is about. :)

This is about Chapter 4, “Following the Rabbi,” where there is a section sent straight from heaven to be honey to my ears called:

“A Different Way to Learn”

It explains the time-honored method in which Jewish boys and girls learned in Jesus’ day (and common throughout the world for many centuries). It reads,

“They didn’t take math classes. Instead, they watched how their fathers measured and calculated as they were building, and they noticed how their mothers counted their money at the market.

“The girls didn’t take home economics classes but learned to pluck and cook a chicken by helping their mothers and sisters.

“Children didn’t crack open their history textbooks either. Instead, they learned the epic stories of their ancestors as their family gathered around the glow of the evening fire.

“The usual method of learning was through hands-on experience, imitating someone who possessed the skills they wanted to acquire.”

What a radical idea! Learning through your life experiences and acquiring the applicable skills you needed along the way? By doing? You mean Jesus was in large part unschooled? Blasphemy!

And boys that did have formal schooling in reading and studying scripture stopped at age 13 to go work with his family or under an apprentice to learn a trade.

Once apprenticed,

“Learning wasn’t so much about retaining data as it was about gaining essential wisdom for living, absorbing it from those around him. This was the ancient method whereby rabbis trained their disciples.”

This particularly strikes a chord with me because the reason I first decided to bring my children home was so that I could disciple them, not educate them.

Our children are our talmidim. Our disciples. Our learners.

The book describes a rabbi’s (teacher’s) relationship with his disciple as one of constant contact and total commitment. They lived together, ate together, worked together, talked together.

“The goal wasn’t just academic learning but personal transformation. The Gospels make it clear that this is the kind of relationship Jesus had with is own disciples. His talmidim followed him everywhere. And as they did, their hearts were challenged and changed.”

This is the goal of Christian unschooling. Not retaining data but raising our children in an unrestrained environment of constant contact and discipleship. Of listening  to the spirit and allowing God to play a great hand in igniting passion and talent in our children. Of discipling by example, allowing our children to be immersed in our lives and experiences so that they can learn to do as we do.

It is not irresponsible, it is not lazy, and Christians unschooling is certainly not a violation of scripture.

It is our attempt at allowing God to more organically shape the lives and futures of our children.

And the veterans of Christian unschooling can tell you that it was effective, life-changing on the part of rabbi and talmidim, and worth every second.

~ Jessica

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