As I write this post, my husband is downstairs with our two teenage sons, slogging through the tedious process of having them try on every piece of clothing they own to see what still fits and what needs to be replaced. The school supply lists are being formulated, and we parents are busy thinking about meal-planning, curriculum, and schedules, while the kids are begging for new backpacks, Lunchables, and sweaters they won't be able to wear until it cools off halfway through October.
My husband, a school administrator, is still trying to hire a teacher, and I'm wondering how we'll survive another year of homework, sports schedules, and science projects. It's official: The calendar still says "summer," but we are back to school.
What does back-to-school prep look like at your house? Are you looking forward to getting back to the routine or sad to see summer slip away? Did school already start in your family or are you enjoying a few more weeks of freedom? What are your goals for the education of your children this year? Better grades? Making the team? Finishing your homeschooling curriculum by May?
And then I wonder with all of the school bus, lunch box, Crayola crayon frenzy, if we've given enough thought to the education of our children. Because if we're Christian parents, if we truly desire to glorify God in our parenting, then surely our back-to-school study should go a little deeper than this week's Target flyer.
Moms, grandparents, caretakers—we are living in dark days. Our children, perhaps more than ever before, need more than just a standard education with Jesus on the side. They need an explicitly Christian education. Each one of them.
Now, perhaps you are uncomfortable with the terminology I'm using. But before you scroll away, let me tell you what I'm not saying: I'm not saying you should homeschool. I'm not saying you should put your kids in a Christian school. I'm not saying you should pull your kids out of public school.
Here is what I am saying: Your children, our children, must have a Christian education, and we, the parents, grandparents, or caretakers, have a God-given mandate to provide it.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Of course, there are as many manifestations of how this works as there are families. You may be surprised to find out that although my husband is the administrator of a Christian school, we homeschooled our first two sons through third and fourth grade, and our ten-year-old attends our local public school. But he, too, will have a Christian education, and we know it is our responsibility as his parents to provide it.
To be honest, we have struggled through each of these decisions like many of you have, and although we (obviously) are strong proponents of Christian schools, we have had to seriously consider what it means to educate each of our children to the glory of God. In that process we have worked through this series of questions which, we've found, have common answers regardless of the three schooling choices we've made for our family throughout the years.
1. What does "Christian education" mean in the first place?
Dictionary.com defines "education" as "the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life."
As a Christian family, we believe that all knowledge, reasoning, and judgment come from God and through Him (Rom. 11:36) and that the purpose of our preparation is to be fit for service to Him (Eph. 4:12). Justin Taylor said it well:
Christian education is as big as God and his revelation. It goes beyond parenting and teachers and classroom instruction to infuse every aspect of the Christian life. It involves not merely donning gospel-centered glasses when we study "spiritual" subjects, but being filled by the very presence of almighty God as we seek by his Spirit to interpret all of reality in light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 9:10 tells us that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." So we endeavor to view all of life through the lens of Scripture, and in so doing develop what is often referred to as a Christian worldview.
Christian education, then, is not a destination but a rich, fluid process that will ebb and flow throughout the years of our life. As parents, it is our responsibility to provide for our children a channel down which to travel, where they have the opportunity to view all of history, science, math, literature, indeed all of life itself, through the lens of God's Word.
2. Why is it necessary?
As we were discussing this last evening, my husband reminded me that for Christian families, the phrase "Christian education" is actually kind of redundant. If we are believers and have set apart our family for God's glory, our children will have a Christian education, meaning they will walk away from their years in our household with some perception of how biblical truth relates to the world around them. The quality and depth of that education will be up to us.
Practically speaking, the voices of the culture boom like the bass beat of your neighborhood teenager's car stereo. Currently, the message of those voices sounds a lot like Romans 1:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (vv. 21–23).
Our society has exchanged the glory of God for a list of commodities, including power, money, brains, beauty, prestige, position, and gratification. We, like Babel, have built towers proclaiming the wonders of the almighty human, and that philosophy has boiled over into our education system. It is our job as parents to point our children . . .
Away from man and toward Christ.
Away from pride and toward humility.
Away from self-gratification and toward self-discipline.
Away from self and toward service.
When I was a child, I marveled at the strangeness of putting on my grandma's glasses and stumbling around her mobile home as if in a slanted, nauseating funhouse. I wondered how glasses that fit her just fine made me feel like I was on another planet. If we neglect to immerse our children in a Christian worldview, we are essentially allowing them to live with one ill-fitting pair of glasses after another.
The Christian home should be a sanctuary in which Christ is in focus, and as the song says, "the things of the world will go strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."
3. Who needs to provide it?
The simple answer to this question? We do. The parents. The caretakers. Whoever has taken the responsibility to bring up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
According to Deuteronomy 6:7, we are to be truth teachers by the house, by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up. We are to be Lois and Eunice-inspired faith-passers (2 Tim. 1:5). We have the opportunity to teach our children "the sacred writings which are able to give [them] the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15, NASB). When we do these things, our children will receive the education they so desperately need.
Public school mamas, go into this school year with eyes wide open. There are good schools and many, many, many good teachers out there. Most of them do not have any particular agenda against biblical teaching. But don't be deceived into thinking that the underlying philosophy of your cute little neighborhood school is neutral.
Your children will be told things that are antithetical to Scripture-things that are in opposition to what they are being (hopefully) taught at home. Take seriously your charge to be your child's primary educator. Give them the lens of Scripture and the knowledge of the Holy One.
Christian school mamas, go into this school year with eyes wide open. Do not assume that because your child is in a Christian school that they are Christians. Evangelize them. Teach them the Word. If your child is in a good Christian school, its aim should be to partner with you, not to parent for you. Give your children the lens of Scripture and the knowledge of the Holy One.
Homeschool mamas, go into this school year with eyes wide open. Understand that your Bible curriculum is not enough. Your children need to see the Spirit at work in your life and in your heart. You have a great privilege to spend your days doing the hard work of assisting in the molding of little minds and eternal souls. Teach your children not just to think like Mom but to think biblically. Give them the lens of Scripture and the knowledge of the Holy One.
So happy first day of school! Happy new clothes and fresh, clean notebooks! Happy No. 2 pencils and healthy boxed lunches! May this be the year when we remind our kiddos to pack their Scripture-lenses wherever and however they school. May this be the year when we all put our pencils and paper to good use as we heed the advice of Solomon:
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart (Prov. 3:3).
What is your focus as you start this new school year? How will you be intentional about taking on the responsibility of being your child's primary educator, regardless of your family's schooling choices? How will your family glorify God this school year?