Culture, 2

If you are forty years old, having never been taught to swim, do you think you might have a slight disadvantage at the beach compared to a twenty year old who just learned to swim? And what about the five year old who has been at the beach every day since their second birthday, splashing in the waves and learning to float? What if you were born into a family who not only visits the beach every weekend but also has a swimming pool in their own backyard… and your parents taught you to swim at the same time they taught you to crawl, walk, speak, and potty train?
It might all come down to swimming skills… but it legitimately plays out differently depending on when you were tossed into the water, and how long you’ve been splashing, floating, paddling, treading…

Were you just recently tossed into the waters of educating children at home? Or has this been something as natural to you as making your bed in the morning? For me, it is the culture in which I was brought up. It is the habit I have cultivated for decades—first as a home educated child/student, and now as a home educating mother/teacher.

In talking with my new friend (mentioned in this post), she commented that it seemed easier for me to grasp and apply many of the principles—and some of the methods—we read about this summer in a long-distance book discussion group. She wondered aloud if it was because these were not new concepts to me (as many were to her), but rather familiar snippets that could honestly have easily been written by or about my own childhood experiences with education… not to mention my children’s experience now. The culture my friend was raised in was not the paideia of the Lord. The culture I was raised in was the paideia of the Lord.

It is easier to pass on an already-existing, thriving, familiar culture than it is to begin a brand-new culture on your own. Somewhere in the middle is the option of adopting a culture with which you are somewhat familiar, and which someone else can assist you in cultivating.

This is where the sourdough comes in.

I have a small container of sourdough starter in my fridge, which I have fed and kept and used and shared for a decade or so. But I did not start from scratch with it—that blessing was handed down to me from my parents. Back in the 1970s, my dad was intrigued by the idea of sourdough and he wanted to pursue that for his future family. So he read and researched and talked to sourdough folks, and learned that he could start a brand-new sourdough culture on his own. He set out a flour and water paste in a warm area, and waited for the natural yeast in the air to settle in. He knew that it could happen, and he hoped that it would happen… but starting from nothing takes time and faith and grit. (Things my dad has never lacked.) Long story short: natural yeast from the air landed in the paste and began to multiply. It began to bubble. It grew lively. It grew pungent. It grew efficacious. It did what culture does: it multiplies, spreads, takes over.

Scripture talks about yeast—using the word leaven. Some of the contexts and connotations are negative, some are positive. But the ultimate point of all the Scriptural examples is this: leaven leavens! Don’t be surprised when the culture being cultivated multiplies. It is inherently contagious, because that is the way God created it.

This applies to many kinds of culture—in my home, we see it most readily in sourdough and homemade yogurt… and in Christian paideia.

I was raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord under the leadership of Christian parents (and multiple generations of Christians before them), who knew they wanted to build a family culture of education and worship and structure based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.
My husband (also raised under the principle of the Lord’s paideia) and I now seek to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, continuing to build upon the foundation we already have beneath our feet, to perpetuate a family culture of education and worship and structure based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.
My friend at a completely different spot on the map, with a completely different background (spiritually, educationally, familially), is seeking to raise her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, starting from scratch to build a culture of education and worship and family structure that is based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.

I did not have to catch the leaven on my own. My parents spent decades doing that work—in their parenting and educating, and in their sourdough. They passed along to me what work they had spent their lives doing, and I simply continue it, building upon their shoulders. I am parenting and educating similarly (but not identically) to the upbringing I received—the culture I perpetuate now in my home is not unlike the culture in which I was raised. I also have the sourdough culture in my fridge which is from the original culture my dad caught a decade before I was born. (We do actually joke that the sourdough was my parents’ first child.) And I can share a lump of the sourdough with someone else who wants to cultivate that habit and blessing and keep the leaven alive. Taking a bit of my sourdough would be an easier start in the art of bread baking than if you caught your own natural yeast the way my dad did. I can walk you through how to feed it, keep it, cultivate it, use it, and share it. But giving you an hour long introduction to sourdough culture is equivalent to you reading a book on a particular education/parenting culture. It is easier to continue cultivating a culture when you were steeped in it yourself. Extra grace and patience is needed when culture-cultivating!

Culture is alive, efficacious, contagious, potent.

We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.
-Voddie T. Baucham Jr.

Thankfully, we do not have to stay in a particular culture. God created us in His image, not in the likeness of tiny microbes. So we can choose to cultivate something new by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just because you came from a particular culture does not mean you can not take a lump from somewhere else and cultivate something new. It is simply harder to purge old leaven than it is to cultivate new leaven. (Corroborate that with Scripture!)

Start from scratch with nothing but raw ingredients and a heap of faith and grit!
Or take a lump from a culture you admire and want to perpetuate yourself.
Or continue the culture you already have and love, by nurturing it regularly and keeping it alive with fresh cultivation and courage and patience.

Stand fast! Be brave! Be strong! Let all that you do be done with love!

Raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That is the principle of Christian culture which we need to cultivate, perpetuate, and share. There may be many methods of pursuing this—but pursue it we must. The Lord requires nothing less. Our children belong to Him. We need to care for them according to His principles, in His paideia, and for His glory.

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