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an essay on education

Words about educating children find their way into my conversations regularly, which is to be expected since my children are ages 1-8. I wonder sometimes why these words tend to be weighted so heavily, with so much power to change relationships (for better or for worse) and with so many nuances. Our words about educating our children ultimately end up reflecting so much of our lifestyle... how we teach our children about the Lord, how we view knowledge, how we interact with those around us, how we schedule our days, and how we function as a family.

I am not here to advocate for any particular method of teaching children... I have seen so many wonderful ones and it's hard for me to pick just one! In fact, I hope that unless you know me personally, you won't be able to tell by reading this how our family learns academic material. The purpose of this short essay is not to persuade, but simply to share some thoughts that have been flitting around lately in my head as I process all of these words I've been hearing.

Wisdom, and more specifically godly wisdom, is a treasure to be highly desired and sought-after. Proverbs 4 is a wonderful, concise read on wisdom that I could never do justice to in a summary. So undoubtedly, wisdom should be a primary pursuit for me as a parent, as well as something to impart to my children. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the beginning of wisdom, or where it starts, is with the fear of the Lord. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary explains it this way: "The first principle of biblical wisdom is that man should humble himself before God in reverence and worship, obedient to his commands."

When I as a parent am humbled before God in reverence and worship, I believe that humility will manifest itself in several ways with regard to our children's education.

A position of humility before God makes it delightfully unnecessary for us to have to prove ourselves or assert our decisions to others. Where we go, we go because He leads... not because we have to send a message to anyone or because we have to influence others. This allows us to provoke each other to good works in full freedom, unhindered by our own opinions! No matter the methods we each choose to educate our children, I can still remind you regularly: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deuteronomy 6:4-7). And you can still remind me regularly, "lay up these [the Lord's] words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth" (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

Humility before before God will result in trust in Him, as well as hope and peace for the future. Because I am in Him, and move and breathe and act only through His grace, I can trust that God will direct the path of our family. I will make a particular decision regarding my children's education not out of fear of man (neither fear of what others will think, nor fear of the power of man to corrupt minds), but out of obedience to God. Furthermore, I can trust that God has that same power in the lives of others, my brothers and sisters in Christ. If He directs us to the same path, we can be thankful for that and find great support in one another! If He directs us to different paths, we can be thankful for a broader perspective on education, and learn a great deal from engaging and listening to others in conversations about how they are teaching their children to love the Lord in their educational context.

And finally, being humbled before God in reverence and worship allows us to derive our entire worth from Him alone. While it is helpful to receive advice from others, and encouraging to receive affirmation, we can remain steady in our decision-making when it is fully focused on our command from the Almighty. We can hear other perspectives and process them not as an affront or a criticism of our decisions, but rather as another way that God is working in His people. When our audience is One - our heavenly Father alone - we filter all that we do through His eyes, and seek His affirmation only.

When our children see us humbled before God, obedient to a power much higher than ourselves, they can more easily step into that path with us. This is not about us, or our opinions or experiences - this is about Him! And so we can begin to teach them wisdom - of which the beginning is the fear of the Lord. If we are raising our children as the Bible commands, our children will have a biblical worldview no matter when or where they start any sort of educational training. I'm not sure that we can really put a "beginning" or "end" on learning. When they enter formal school-age years, their spiritual and academic experiences will blend, form, and weave in different ways depending on the method of their studies. As parents, it is our responsibility to pray earnestly for wisdom to help them through that process in their journey to understand the vast gap that exists between God and humanity. In the conversion testimony of nearly every believer I have heard, regardless of the way they were trained academically, the refrain is the same - "I tried to serve God on my own, and I failed. I could not, without His grace and salvation, close that gap." And so every child, seeking wisdom, will ultimately end up finding the Lord at the beginning of it.

Wisdom is defined in the Illustrated Bible Dictionary as the "ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding." While is is easy to undermine academic knowledge in our preference for biblical wisdom, I believe that the two work together to bring glory to God in a person's life. Knowledge is defined in the Oxford dictionary as "facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject." God is not limited in the parts of our body that can bring Him glory. An intelligent brain can bring Him just as much glory as a muscular build, which can bring Him just as much glory as skilled hands... it seems that mostly, it matters to Him that we make full good of what we've been given. The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 5:25 would speak to this. Academic study is certainly not inherently worldly wisdom, although the two can easily overlap. But I don't personally believe that academic study is the entire opposite of godly wisdom. In fact, I believe there would be evidence that intelligence resulting from academic study enables better judgement. Cycles of material poverty through generations and cultures can sometimes begin to be broken through academic learning, a discipline which helps the brain develop better thinking and decision-making skills. I don't claim to be an expert on any of these enormous topics (the brain, poverty, etc.!) but simply stated, I believe academic study is not the antidote to godly wisdom but rather can contribute to a greater understanding of this world that God created.

However, it is of course true, that "the biblical concept of wisdom is quite different from the classical view of wisdom, which sought through philosophy and man's rational thought to determine the mysteries of existence and the universe" (again from the Illustrated Bible Dictionary). And so we return again to be reminded that the roots of wisdom are in God, rather than man. In some way, no matter how our children are learning math and biology, we as parents must be helping them to connect all of the dots, teaching them by repetition and example that God is the author of all that they are learning, and of life itself.

My husband, Grant, learned academics through a combination of home and private schooling. My educational experience was entirely in public schools. Looking back over both of our childhoods, I am amazed at how God ordained our experiences and took each of us on an individual journey to Him. He was not limited by our parents' school choices in His desire to see us at the foot of the Cross. He saw each of us where we were, reached down and into our lives, and made it possible for our feet to find a path to Him. I am in awe of the way He does this in the life of every believer.

From a practical perspective, the honest truth is that school decisions can get divisive and it can be challenging to know how to respond. For every negative comment that we encounter about our own choices, it's so tempting to have to counter that with something else. But really we have to just take every single perspective and experience back to God, holding it up to Him and asking, "what do I do with this?" He is so faithful! He will let us know if an event or conversation is meant to change our course of action or not! He will let us know if we are straying outside of His best will for our family. Unless we are unwilling to hear correction or admonition, He will faithfully deliver all we need to know. He will give us courage to know how to articulate our choice to other people, and how to rejoice with them whether their choice is the same as ours or different. And He will even give the very humility we need to do all of this well, if we just ask!

I am so grateful to each of our parents for the ways that they made our childhood homes places where we could grow and learn about Christ in peace and safety. They sang us "Jesus Loves Me" from the moment we were born, and lived their lives in submission to God so that we could see the contrast between godly living and worldly living and decide for ourselves where we wanted to put our allegiance. I think both of them made courageous decisions regarding schooling... neither one would say the path felt smooth or certain all of the time. As parents, love for Jesus and following quickly behind that, love for others, are the only motives that will produce the results we want to see in our children. When our only desire is to see Him lifted up and glorified, we will find ways to do that and work that in our families no matter what educational path God has us on. Let's build the Kingdom.

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Hi, I'm Hannah.

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