Homeschooled Leader: George Washington

October 28–November 1, 2013   |   Vol. 117, Programs 41–45

The father of our country was a surveyor, general, president—and homeschooler. This week on Home School Heartbeat, find out how George Washington’s home education shaped his career and America’s future.

“America owes its very existence to one of the greatest homeschoolers of all time.”—Mike Smith.

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Who was America’s greatest homeschooler? Some say it was George Washington. Join host Mike Smith on today’s Home School Heartbeat to decide for yourself.

Mike Smith: Born February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, George Washington was by all accounts the indispensable man of the American Revolution.

America’s birth was a desperate struggle against overwhelming odds. A ramshackle band of colonists, many—though not all—desired to break away from the growing tyranny of British rule. Washington, with his ragtag army, defeated the strongest military power in the world—the British.

But with military success came governmental responsibility. His presence at the Philadelphia constitutional convention enabled the various groups to be drawn together, and, despite the divergence of opinion, Washington was able to provide the final approval for the Constitution.

By his efforts, a first-of-its-kind new nation with a republican form of government was founded. The experiment in self-government based on liberty and religious freedom would proceed without being snuffed out by the tyrannical foreign rule.

Washington was known for his character and integrity. He did not seek power and accepted the call to the presidency with reluctance. Washington’s restraint, his daring, and his wisdom have touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

America owes its very existence to one of the greatest homeschoolers of all time.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: George Washington’s father Augustine died in 1743 when George was just 11. He was raised by his mother Mary Ball Washington in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

Like most frontier families at this time, homeschooling was the most viable option for a child’s education. George combined his academic studies with good doses of practical application. He farmed his father’s land and trained as a surveyor.

At age 15, George Washington copied, in his own handwriting, 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. These rules focused on how a person should view God and his fellow man and they became integral to George Washington’s life.

Character and integrity were central, and he learned these through the lessons taught by his parents.

After his father’s death, George and his older brother Lawrence became very close. George often visited Lawrence at his home on the Potomac. Lawrence shared stories of his time in the British army, and, it seems, instilled in George a sense of adventure.

When George learned that a friend of Lawrence’s, George William Fairfax, was leaving on a surveying trip to the Appalachian Mountains, George sought and received a place on the expedition. George was thrust into the world and began his amazing life of service. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: As George Washington began his public life, he recorded this parting advice given by his mother Mary: “Remember that God is our only sure trust. To Him, I commend you… My son, neglect not the duty of secret prayer.”

George Washington had a deep and abiding faith imparted to him by his mother’s teaching. He recognized that religion and morality are the essential source of character since they teach men their moral obligations and create the conditions for a decent politics.

He also believed that a sense of individual religious obligation is necessary to support the oaths relied upon in a court of law. Washington is quoted as saying, “Of all the dispensations and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Faith and freedom go hand in hand.

Washington’s concept of religious liberty requires that politics be moral. This does not mean a formal union of church and state, but just the opposite: a moral and religious people ordering their affairs according to the guidance of religion.

Washington opposed religious tyranny and firmly believed that any person should be able to “worship the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.”

This moral framework set the example for future American presidents.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: On August 27, 1776, the Revolutionary army was on the brink of defeat. British general Howe had trapped General Washington and his 8,000 troops on Brooklyn Heights. In an act of desperation, Washington gathered every vessel, from fishing boat to rowboat, and spent the night ferrying his army across the East River. A thick fog aided the escape.

In the freezing winter of 1777, the army was camped at Valley Forge. Supplies were short and troops were suffering. Washington was able to rally the troops and remain firm in his faith. The army pulled through despite many losses.

The lessons of his childhood, learned from his parents, prepared Washington to face this hardship with integrity, a belief in the centrality of Providence, and a firm reliance on God.

Many events occurred during the Revolutionary War which Washington saw as acts of Providence. “The providential train of circumstances which led to it affords the most convincing proof that the Liberties of America are the object of [a] divine Protection.”

Washington recognized the hand of God and embraced the events unfolding in front of him. He pursued his goals. And finally, on October 19, 1781, the British troops under Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.

The new country would breathe free.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: This week we have been discussing one of America’s greatest homeschoolers—George Washington. The successful founding of America was a miracle. Never in history had the world witnessed a genuinely free and republican form of government. America would indeed be a great experiment in self-government.

Without Washington, the Revolution would have failed, either on the battlefield or at the constitutional convention. Washington was the glue that held the army together and the only figure who could keep the convention from breaking apart.

The new country would face many challenges and struggles, but Washington had given the nation a free government based on Christian principles and the ability of that government to adjust to new circumstances.

It is impossible to determine how the world would look if George Washington had not succeeded in his endeavor.

Many nations have tried alternate forms of government—with little success. America has spread the principles of freedom across the globe. Is there a viable alternative to the republican form of government in the 21st century?

Washington led the way, and today, Americans owe their freedom to the efforts of our Founding Fathers and to this man who diligently studied and learned the truths of life at home.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith:

Michael Smith and his wife Elizabeth, along with Michael Farris and his wife, Vickie, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. Mike grew up in Arkansas, graduated from the University of Arkansas where he played basketball, majoring in business administration. Upon graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy and served three years before attending law school at the University of San Diego.

In 1972, he was admitted to the bar in California and also has been admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States. He is licensed in Virginia, California, and Washington, D.C.

Mike and his family began homeschooling because their 5-year-old flunked kindergarten. This was quite a disappointment to Mike in light of the fact that he was preparing this child to be President of the United States by starting his education as early as possible.

His family’s life changed drastically when he heard a radio program in 1981 which introduced him to the idea of homeschooling. When they started homeschooling, they began homeschooling one year at a time to meet the academic and social needs of their children. After spending lots of time around people like Mike Farris, he became convinced he had been called to use his gifts and talents in the legal profession to assist homeschoolers who were being prosecuted because they didn’t hold a teacher’s certificate or satisfy the school district that they could competently teach their children.

Mike came to HSLDA full-time in 1987 and has served as president of the organization since the year 2001. In addition to serving as president, he also is a contact lawyer for California, Nevada and Puerto Rico. All of Mike’s children are now grown, and three of the four were homeschooled. The most enjoyable part of Mike’s job is when he is able to go to homeschool conferences and meet what he calls America’s greatest heroes, homeschooling moms.

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