Annegret Hunter on Cardinal Truths Her Sons Taught Her About Genesis
Mothers are the ones who get their chief education through homeschooling. Of course children profit greatly, and some fathers might too, but in the case of our family I was the main beneficiary. Take, for example, the matter of creation. Before I homeschooled I had never given it a thought.
For sure I was brought up on Darwin’s theory. Since I found any religion to be a useless escape from reality, I believed creation to be only a myth like many others. And this was still the case when the beginning began: My younger son informed me that he wanted to learn how to read and write.
I thought I knew what to do. So first I got some books on how to teach phonics—all pretty straightforward, you know, the cat-on-the-mat type—then I found a perfectly darling little book, with only small words in it, and very cute drawings, called The Christmas Mouse. After three days of this, together with the painful printing of letters, the ardor of my inquisitive student was snuffed out: “Mom, I’m not really interested in reading and writing after all,” and he looked with loathing at The Christmas Mouse.
I nearly panicked. What was wrong? What to do to keep his interest? How did folks, young and old, learn reading in earlier days? Well, they certainly did not have The Christmas Mouse! What they used must have been much more memorable. All right, I thought, let’s go back to the beginning, to the most famous book of stories. And not just any watered-down translation of it either, but the translation that made English the beautiful language it is: the King James Bible.
Now what about the writing part? How ever did I learn that, being such a klutzy youngster? Then I remembered: I was not mechanized; printing was done by machines. I learned to write in big, rounded and attached, dignified, glorious letters, and to draw in preparation lots of tornadoes and wild waves, to loosen the wrist.
I conferred with the principal of our school, who seemed inordinately enthusiastic and found for me a beautiful copy of the Merian Bible in the King James version, and in large print.
“Son, we try again,” I told my young offspring, whose face fell, but then I presented him with the intricately illustrated Bible, a fountain pen, an exercise book, and a drawing pad, and he was awestruck. This was serious, this was cool, a real Bible with grown-up pictures, and a real pen. For the next month we worked diligently and joyfully, starting at “In the beginning God . . .”, working slowly through the creation until the summer holidays arrived and we rested on the fifth day.
I settled down to prepare the material for the next school year, congratulating myself on such a brilliant start, thanks to my ingenious idea of using the Bible. Not once did I realize the danger into which I had stepped, because, you see, you cannot open the door just a little and get away with it. The Light touches you even through the smallest crack. On the other hand, the door probably was pushed open a bit from the other side, just to let some rays of sense into the darkness.
I was a slow learner, however. The world seemed to me an incomprehensible puzzle, and I pondered over the pieces, like that winter day when our little school was eating lunch and commenting on the birds at their feeder.
“See how well those birds fit into their environment? You can hardly see the flock of sparrows in that bush. Remember the brown creeper last summer and his camouflage? Impossible to keep track of,” and we talked about the survival of the fittest, and adaptation.
But then: “Oh look, Mom, a cardinal!” And there he was, bright red, at the feeder, on the snow, in the tree, and we followed his conspicuous flight right down the block, and we sighed as he left and smiled at each other. Camouflage and adaptation? Confused, I sent my students off to do math.
Here is another piece, from a music lesson. We were listening to Haydn’s Creation: God’s melodious, small, quiet voice saying, “Let there be light,” then the near toneless murmurs of, “and there was . . . LIGHT.” The sudden explosion of miraculous harmonies is utterly overwhelming, the room gets brighter, and as the sound expands we are surrounded by the warmth of the light. “That’s the big bang,” my firstborn whispers in awe.
Then there is the piece from the summer when the lads were fascinated with dinosaurs and fossils, chipping off stones at the river bank and bringing them to the Museum of Nature, to be told what their finds were and how many millions of years old; and then the police fished out of the same river a human skeleton, but after weeks of expert forensic examination they could not even say whether it was male or female.
And the final piece was the preparation to teach history. All my history books started with the human origins some two million years ago. As I glanced at the vacant faces of Homo sapiens, I thought of the faces of Anna and Joachim when they meet again, as painted by Master Giotto in the fourteenth century, and I knew I could not bring myself to look into my children’s eyes, point to the “reconstructed” ape-man, and tell them that this was where they came from.
I reread Genesis, and the puzzle that was just a jumble of disconnected pieces fell clattering into place, and I saw what my little son had seen when he got his first pair of glasses and exclaimed, “Mom, I can see each leaf. Look at that tree, it is so beautiful.”
For everything is contained in those beginning verses of Genesis. Since creation certainly was not silent, music was there. Colors were there, folded and hidden into each other, appearing in dazzling combinations, each in its season. Poetry was there, by words evoking images and sounds, “as the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” and “the morning stars sang together.” Innumerable utterances and theories of many things can be gathered and discarded.
Seeing Through Genesis
But only out of the act of God’s creating, in love, majesty, beauty, compassion, and humor too, can creatures like the brown creeper, the Galapagos finch, and the cardinal come. Only through the understanding of this mighty act could a man like Beethoven, deaf and suffering, create sublime new songs to the Lord, or Shakespeare present man in all his vigor and folly and always be charitable, or Grünewald make us actually see the second big bang in his stunning painting of the Resurrection of Christ. And this is my children’s inheritance.
One of our school tasks was to write dictations. I selected sentences from Genesis: “And the earth was filled with violence.” When my eager student presented me with, “And the world was filled with violins,” I laughed heartily. How very funny; I love student bloopers. Yet looking back, I know that he absolutely meant it, because in his heart the world, created so wonderfully, was without doubt filled with the beauty of sound.
Annegret Hunter recovered after homeschooling two boys and was pleased to discover she was still a Christian, a wife, and a bookbinder. Her husband Graeme is a contributing editor of Touchstone.
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