Darrow Miller and Friends

The Mother as the First Teacher

A mother is the first teacher of every exemplar and every scoundrel.

Too often we leave our children’s education to television, video games, the state, or their peers. Too many parents have abdicated their responsibility, largely because they no longer have a God-ordained vision for the family and for education.

God has entrusted parents with the responsibility to educate their children (Deut 11:18-21: Proverbs 1:8; 22:6; 23:22; 31:1). While this responsibility may be delegated, to some degree, by the parent to a teacher, a tutor, the church or even the state, it is still the parent’s ultimate concern.

While a complete education requires both the maternal and paternal dimensions, the “queen” of the household is the mother. Her role is captured in the Greek term oikodespoteo, to “guide the house, rule a household, manage family affairs.” Thus we read in 1Timothy 5:14, So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander (ESV). We see a robust example of this view of womanhood in Proverbs 31. She is the queen of the manor. Her home is her primary sphere of influence; her secondary sphere is the market place and public square.

How important that she succeed in preparing the next generation of a nation’s leaders! Yet much is said today that belittles women, said by men (sexism) and by women (feminism).

Writing 150 years ago, Lydia Sigourney masterfully captures this truth.

Is it not important that the sex to whom Nature has intrusted the moulding of the whole mass of mind in its first formation should be acquainted with the structure and development of the mind? – that they who are to nurture the future rulers of a prosperous people, should be able to demonstrate from the broad annals of history, the value of just laws, and the duty of subordination – the blessings which they inherit, and the danger of their abuse? Is it not requisite that they on whose bosom the infant heart must be cherished should be vigilant to watch the earliest pulsations of good and evil? – that they who are commissioned to light the lamp of the soul, should know how to feed it with pure oil? – that they in whose hand is the welfare of beings never to die, should be fitted to perform the work, and earn the plaudits of heaven?

Lydia Sigourney

mother kissing babyFor her task, the woman herself must be wise and knowledgeable. She must have the best liberal education (that is, broad, interdisciplinary, and integrated) so that she may teach her children, among other things, music and art, history, math, science, and communication – reading, writing, rhetoric.

Her need is to understand the design of a child’s mind and heart, how these grow and prosper for knowledge and virtue, to prepare the future citizens of a free nation. If a nation is to be free, her citizens must be knowledgeable and wise. To be ignorant and foolish is to become poor and enslaved. The mother will direct the child’s first steps on a journey either toward freedom or toward bondage.

A nation that does not learn from history is bound to repeat it. History teaches the importance and blessing of just laws, and the ravages of corrupt laws. It teaches the necessity of abiding by the law and the folly of lawlessness. Thus the mother is to be versed in history, to be able to identify the root of corruption and the nature of just societies.

It is the mother’s heart that the infant first hears. The mother’s eyes provide the child its first window into another soul. As the mother cherishes and nurtures the child at her breast, she is the first to perceive the direction of the child’s heart and the first to instruct it.

The mother not only gives the child life—or as Lydia Sigourney so eloquently writes, “lights the lamp of the soul”—she should know how to nourish the soul and prepare the child for life. The mother holds in her arms no mere mortal; she holds the life of one bearing the image of God, one who will impact the direction of history and live in eternity.

–          Darrow Miller

This post is the sixth in a series on maternal feminism.


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