Source : 09/10/1984 Northampton Chronicle and Echo
The word game, Scrabble, has given innocent hours of pleasure to people all over the world. Many parents like to play with their children to help increase their word power.
And parents who are members of New Creation Christian Community, part of the Jesus Fellowship, are also encouraged to use Scrabble for educational purposes.
But with one important difference - the score is not added up because that could develop the competitive instinct among children and that is something the Fellowship want to avoid.
To make sure the style of education is followed to the letter, all parents, at least up to two years ago, were given a 12-page document headed Education and the Community which sets out the Fellowship's views on education and how parents should approach the subject.
Senior Elder Mr. David Hawker said the document was produced by parents for parents. 'It was written many years ago by a schoolteacher who is a parent. It is in no sense the Elders laying down the law. It gives guidance and advice; it does not dictate a set of rules,' he said.
Children are allowed to go to outside schools because the community believes it would cost too much money to set up purely community schools and, in any case, see no reason why they should not take advantage of the resources provided by the State because they pay taxes like anyone else.
But there are strict rules, and parents are told to bring their children home as often as possible although this would mean missing out on extra-curricular activities, such as sport and drama.
According to the community elders, proficiency or even semi-proficiency in sport can develop egotism, enjoyment of praise and the competitive spirit and their conclusion is that they recognise the harmful effects of sport.
Parents are told to train their children that it is important to receive praise from God and not men. 'They are also told not to encourage the egotistic effects of sport at home by allowing competitive sport in the community.'
On drama, the elders point out that the bulk is extra curricular and can therefore be ignored. And parents are told not to let their children take part in productions because it trains a child to hide its own heart.
Drama can encourage an exaggerated self-expression - 'and we can do without that', according to the elders. The Fellowship objects to unhelpful self-assertiveness.
Parents are encouraged to bring their children home from school for lunch because the elders claim that at lunchtime the younger children are educated by the older pupils in how to swear, how to be good at football and many other things which they consider 'undesirable'.
And children who have lunch at home are generally better behaved than those who stay. In addition, children who lunch at home have at least 11 years extra motherly and community influence.
Elders tell parents that some Christians feel they will gain 'kingdom merit' as a teacher but they point out that this may well be 'self-righteousness'. And they say that some teachers are eager to impress and get an ego kick out of being well spoken of and being elected to various committees.
Parents are told to support the authority of schools and teachers but not to be fobbed off with 'waffle' by teachers or schools out to impress.
They also say that teachers have no right to indoctrinate children but add that there are certain school activities which could prove difficult for community members and their children as they involve influences that should be avoided.
But in a section on home education, elders say that God created children to be impressionable and 'we should take full advantage of this and not impress upon them all the stupid fantasies which the world does at this age, but fill them full of Godly knowledge and faith.'
One former member of the community said that as far as possible children within the community were isolated from non-community activities. 'Each child in encouraged to find its best friend from within the community and when children go to secondary schools, a 'leader' is appointed to look after them,' he said.
The end of the school day when children return home is seen as a most important time in community life. It is then the harmful effects of the day can be counteracted by teaching the benefits of community life and the elders say: 'Never miss an opportunity to teach even a little thing to a child.'
Mr. Hawker said: 'All Christian parents face the challenge of bringing children up in a secular society. A number of evangelical churches have set up their own schools in order to educate their children according to Christian principles.
'We are happy for our children to attend normal schools, as the community provides them with a strong Christian base in their life.'
'They mix freely with other children of their own age at school. Inevitably they are exposed to many non-Christian influences, but we try to ensure that those influences are, as far as possible, beneficial.'