Noah Webster Speaks to Homeschoolers

If he were still alive, Noah Webster would be celebrating his 251st birthday today. Born October 16, 1758, Webster helped shape and define American education- perhaps more than any other single figure.

One of Webster’s greatest contribution was his speller. The speller was originally titled The First Part of the Grammatical Institute of the English Language. Over the course of 385 editions in his lifetime, the title was changed in 1786 to The American Spelling Book, and again in 1829 to The Elementary Spelling Book. Most people called it the “Blue-Backed Speller” because of its blue cover, and for the next one hundred years, Webster’s book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words. It was the most popular American book of its time; by 1861, it was selling a million copies per year, and its royalty of less than one cent per copy was enough to sustain Webster in his other endeavors. Some consider it to be the first dictionary created in the United States, and it helped create the popular contests known as spelling bees.

Foundational to all that Webster believed was his Christian faith. His speller was grounded in Scripture, and his first lesson began “Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor for your body, what ye shall put on ; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.”

In the preface to the 1828 edition of Webster’s American American Dictionary of the English Language Noah Webster wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed… . No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

Talk with your children today about the faith of the man who helped shape a nation’s educational system and our language. And remind them that their faith is foundational to all else they will ever learn.

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