It is 4 o’clock in the morning, and I just got off the phone with Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S Lewis. Dr. Lewis adopted both Douglas and his older brother, David, when he married their mother, Joy. When Joy lost her battle with cancer, Lewis continued to raise them. As someone who has read every one of Dr. Lewis’s works, I was thrilled to have the chance to speak with his stepson. However, I had to call him at 3:00 AM my time, because he lives in Malta and was only free in the morning. I originally thought I would go back to sleep and write about the interview later, but I simply cannot. My conversation with him was so spiritually and intellectually stimulating that I am simply too excited to go back to sleep.
Why did I call Mr. Gresham? He is one of the featured speakers at the Great Homeschool Conventions in Texas and Ohio, and I was asked to interview him regarding what he plans to share with the attendees. Seems a simple enough task, right? Not when you are talking to someone like Douglas Gresham. For example, I asked him what he plans to speak about, and here is what he said:
I never prepare my lectures. I just pray lots and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me…I am not 100% sure what I am going to talk about, but I am sure it will be what the Lord wants me say.
That’s the kind of man Mr. Gresham seems to be: A man who takes the guidance of the Holy Spirit very seriously.
For example, he told me about how he felt the Lord calling him to stop farming (something he had been doing off and on in his adult life) and start a Christian psychotherapy and hospitality ministry. Essentially, he and his wife, Merrie, purchased an estate and converted it into a place where people who needed help could stay. They accepted anyone who had nowhere else to go, and they didn’t charge them anything. While he was being trained by Dr. Philip Ney to start the ministry, he met a young woman who was pregnant and very worried about raising a baby. While they were talking, she admired a ring that he was wearing. Without even thinking, he took the ring off his finger, gave it to her, and told her that it was for her daughter. He did not know the gender of the child, but he simply felt the Holy Spirit telling him to do that. Well, the woman did have a daughter. She is now a wonderful young woman who wears that ring every day.
Since Mr. Gresham doesn’t know exactly what he will say at the convention, I simply asked him about his thoughts on homeschooling. Like me, he is a “convert” to idea. He didn’t homeschool his own children, because he didn’t know about it at the time. However, later in his life, he started sailing along the east coast of Australia. He said that in each port he stopped, he met children who were bright, inquisitive, and more importantly, they were eager to carry on conversations with him. He thought that those children were rather different from the typical Australian children he was used to meeting, and he became curious as to why. He eventually found out that it was because they were homeschooled.
It turns out that some families in Australia spend a great deal of their time sailing, and because they are away so much, they homeschool their children. Since Mr. Gresham was visiting the ports of Australia, he encountered a lot of these homeschooled – or perhaps I should say boatschooled – children, and they continued to impress him. This prompted him to do some serious research about the state of education today, and as a result, he is now a staunch advocate of home education. As he said to me:
Homeschooling, by at least slightly educated parents, is utterly vital. We have gotten to the stage now where government-provided education is roughly equivalent to what you get in a bull ring with three bulls running around. It has been shown that 75% of what children learn in school comes from their peers. It makes no sense to learn from people who don’t know any more than you do.
In addition, he referenced his stepfather’s book, The Abolition of Man, which demonstrates that rejecting the existence of objective moral truths will eventually lead to the collapse of society. According to Mr. Gresham, some of what is in that book is already being played out because of the education provided by government schools. He believes that homeschooling serves as an effective bulwark against the societal decay envisioned by Dr. Lewis.
Speaking of Dr. Lewis, the main reason Mr. Gresham was invited to the Great Homeschool Conventions is because he has an intimate knowledge of the brilliant man he calls “Jack.” Long ago, I learned that Dr. Lewis’s friends and family called him by that name, but I had never learned why. Mr. Gresham said that as a very young boy, Dr. Lewis had become fond of a dog named “Jacksie.” When the dog was killed in an accident, Lewis declared that his name was Jacksie, so his friends and family started calling him that. Eventually, the nickname was shortened to “Jack.” Mr. Gresham also said that he thinks his stepfather looks like someone you would call “Jack.”
I asked him what it was like to live with a man like Dr. Lewis, and he said that’s a difficult question to answer. He then said:
I did have a wonderful stepfather. There is no doubt about that.
However, he noted that his mother was a towering intellect as well. He said that when his mother and Dr. Lewis played Scrabble, they would use two sets of tiles, and they would allow any word in any language, even if the language was fictional. The word just had to be found in a book. He said it wasn’t unusual to see them fill almost the entire board with tiles, and despite the fact that nearly every square had a letter on it, all connecting tiles spelling out words that could be found in a book! As he said after sharing that anecdote:
I had the privilege of living with people, the likes of which probably won’t be seen again for quite some time.
I cannot agree more. In fact, that brings me to one very important aspect of his appearance at the Great Homeschool Conventions. Mr. Gresham is the last surviving person to have lived with one of the most important men of the 20th Century. If you want an intimate look at Clive Staples Lewis (“Jack”), he is the only person who can give it to you. And, as he pointed out:
I am 73 years old, so you don’t have long if you want to hear from me!