|Doug Phillips, the founder and director of
Vision Forum, is a passionate communicator with a heart for home education and
the restoration of Christian family and culture to the glory of God. As a
constitutional attorney, Doug served six years at Home School Legal Defense
Association and as director for the National
Center for Home
Education. Doug and his wife, Beall, have eight children. They live in San Antonio, Texas.|
CBD: As a husband, father of eight
children, former attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, and
now president of Vision Forum, you have been involved in home education for
some time. What factors led you and your wife to homeschool?
DP: The most important human influence
on my life was my father. Perhaps because of my family’s Jewish heritage or
perhaps because of his unique character, I grew up under the mentorship of a
dad who practiced Hebraic discipleship in the spirit of Deuteronomy 6. He
modeled a “walk beside, talk beside” approach to training which won my heart
and instructed my mind. Life was a constant homeschool program. Although I went
to government school and private Christian school at different times of my
life, by far the greatest influence on me was the training I received directly
from my father. Dinnertime was gloriously lengthy and filled with quizzes, book
reviews, philosophical discussions, and readings of the Word of God. I traveled
extensively with my father and mother and always felt intimately connected with
their mission and life work. When Beall and I were married, we were persuaded
first by the Word of God and second by the wonderful experience lived and
observed in others through home education that there could be no other option
for us. I am pleased to report that after 14 years of training our own
children, we could not be happier with this God-blessed approach to education.
As an aside, I should mention that my mother was 47
years old when she had her last child. More than two decades my junior, my
younger brother Samuel completed his home education just a few years ago. Also, my father actively
assists my sister in the home education of her children. Once a week he teaches
them history, the Constitution, economics, civics, current events, and family
history. My sister puts it this way: “My dad believes in leaving an inheritance
to his children’s children, and part of this inheritance is personal
instruction in family history.”
CBD: Your personal passion for history
is certainly reflected in Vision Forum’s superb selection of resources. What
influences in your life sparked such intense interest?
DP: From my personal perspective, every
academic discipline ultimately falls into one of two categories: theology or
history. Theology is the study of the character and attributes of God. History
is the providential structure and working of God’s plan through time and
eternity in the cosmos. Traditional academic disciplines such as mathematics,
composition, and science all take place and find meaning within the context of
a historical event called Creation and God’s continuing, unfolding plan through
history. So that’s my motivation. But my passion for history was cultivated
through constant exposure to historical literature and visits throughout the United States
to places of historic importance. My parents were constantly taking me on
history tours and offering exciting opportunities for me to interface with the
CBD: In postmodern society, our traditional
understanding of American history has been undergoing a radical reinterpretation.
To what societal, cultural, or spiritual influences do you attribute this shift
DP: People have stopped reading
meaningful books. They are addicted to cheap entertainment. We are actually
training our children to be uncomfortable sitting through a meaningful 30-minute
sermon, let alone a one-hour symphony performance. Our fast food culture is
producing a generation that lives for the moment and doesn’t care about the
past. Behind the scenes, devastating philosophies are teaching our children
that they are little more than the product of chance and evolution. They are
taught that there is no transcendent truth. Precious few professing Christians
study their Bible and really feast upon it as God’s love letter to man.
Consequently, the hearts of many have waxed cold to the God of history.
CBD: Vision Forum’s film The
League of Grateful Sons was a moving
tribute to the Greatest Generation of World War II. What character traits of
World War II veterans do you most admire? How have that particular generation’s
sacrifices shaped the American experience for today’s children?
DP: In 2005, I traveled with more than 80 veterans of the
Battle of Iwo Jima back to the bloodstained battleground of their youth. Also
on the journey were the children, grandchildren, and in one case, great-grandchild,
of these heroic men. It was an opportunity for the fathers of the WWII
generation to speak to the children of today. Here are some of the things we
discovered: First, fatherhood really matters. It was beautiful to hear men in
their eighties talk about the close relationship they had with their fathers
and the way that those relationships motivated them to play the part of men.
Second, to a man, they were individuals who understood that men sacrifice for
women and children. Third, these men were extremely grateful for the United States of America.
They recognized that freedom comes with a price, and they paid it. Fourth, they
were humble. They were a remarkable group of heroes, but they refused honors
and deflected praise away from themselves. Each of these qualities—love of
fatherhood, sacrifice for women and children, gratitude, and humility—are qualities
this generation is lacking. We should look to the example of our WWII fathers
for these important qualities.
Forum offers many resources on both history and character development. Is there
a relationship between the two? If so, how does the knowledge of one subject
affect the other?
DP: The Bible teaches us in Hebrews 11 that we should
look to the example set by men of the past to inform us on how we should live
in the present. The study of history not only teaches us to hope in God, but it
allows us to draw from the examples of good character and bad character set by
those who went before us. We live at a time when godly character is really at a
premium. Our children need real examples. They can learn the discipline of
perseverance from George Washington. They can discover how God uses simple men
to write the greatest works of history in literature when they study the works
of John Bunyan. They can discover the true meaning of creativity and vision to
serve the Lord in the field of science from the life of George Washington Carver.
Of course, the Bible provides us with the greatest history lessons in character
of all time.
CBD: Are there any other insights you’d
care to share with our readers about your experience as a homeschool father?
DP: In 3 John 1:4, we are told, “I have no greater joy
than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” This same principle
should apply to earthly fathers and their children. We should dearly and
desperately fight for the hearts of our children and pray that God will lead
them in truth. But first we must turn our hearts to our children. I believe the
return of the homeschooling father to America is a wonderful sign of
hope. It means that men are becoming shepherds again. It also means that God is
turning the hearts of fathers to children and children to fathers to make ready
a people prepared for the Lord (Malachi 4:6).