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Monday, September 12, 2011

Thoughts for September (Part 1)

Will every blog on the Internet choose to center its theme on educational topics this month?  I can’t account for them all, but this one will because I like having a subject provided, and also I’m just really, really excited about school this year.

Songbird starts her K4 year tomorrow in a classical home school program, and both kids start Italian classes in a few weeks.  Add soccer and Sunday School and the Zoo and you’ve got the kind of do-it-yourself hodge-podgey lifestyle that inspires me.  Also, it lets us sleep in.

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking and talking lately about various types of schooling and the merits of each.  Having attended both a terrific public school and a great private prep school myself, and having chosen yet a third option for our kids, I’m not one of those who is passionately devoted to one educational style as likely to make or break a child. 

Cookie and I obviously believe there is merit in both homeschooling and in classical methodology, else we wouldn’t have decided on it for our family.  But, at the risk of alienating some of my more dogmatic homeschooling peers, I’ll agree with William P. Farley when he suggests that the success of our parenting (read: teaching) won’t hinge on any classroom experience.

What is the goal of Christian parenting?  And what is the goal of education?  For us, those goals are one and the same: that our kids would become effective ambassadors of Christ in the world.  Of course, we have also done enough research to be confident that our kids’ education will put them in good standing for college and career paths, but I know in my heart that money and prestige are at best incidental to contentment, at worst an impediment.  So while we’ve chosen classical homeschooling, the best part about its academic rigorousness is that it prepares our kids to be leaders and communicators—for Christ.

But here’s why in another sense, it doesn’t even matter too much.  Most of my schoolteacher friends will tell you that it’s not the curriculum or the Smart classrooms or the removal of sugary sodas from school lunches that make education stick.  Success or failure nearly always comes down to the parents.  The ones who rely on the schools to impart knowledge and wisdom, to teach ABCs and values all together, are the ones whose kids struggle.  The ones who read books at home and puzzle out homework together are the ones who succeed even in lower rated districts.  The parent is the primary teacher, every time.

And what if your hopes for your child’s spiritual development trump even your goals for his SAT score?  The same holds true, it seems.  Farley, a pastor whose kids have experienced the gamut of educational options, writes of other Christian families he’s known,

“Some children thrived. Their youthful faith blossomed in adulthood…Others did not fare so well. Many have completely abandoned their parents’ faith. Why? …The results appear to have nothing to do with where the child was educated…The common denominator between success and failure seems to be the spiritual depth and sincerity of the parents, especially the spiritual depth and sincerity of the father. There seems to be a strong correlation between the faith, commitment, and sincerity of the family’s head and the spiritual vitality of his adult children” (Gospel Powered Parenting).

When the gospel invades family life, spilling into conversation and informing decisions, children see that it is genuine and powerful.  The evidence of the parents’ lives bolsters the words spoken.  What is genuine is respectable, and a parent who is respected gains his child’s ear.  He gets to convey his values, his insights.

Ecclesiastes 7:12 predicts, “…the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.”

Knowledge can be found in a public school or private, Christian or charter.  But the wisdom to wield knowledge, that is the duty of a parent to impart. 


  1. I'm all about "do-it-yourself hodge-podgey" and sleeping in :)
    You put into words here exactly how I feel about home education but could never explain it so clearly.
    Wait, see, that sentence didn't even make sense.
    Thanks for the encouragement this pj-wearing home school mama needed today. This morning I was anything but excited and feeling like I made a huge mistake. A few cups of coffee and a successful latin lesson later, I'm feeling better, but it is so good to be reminded of the reason for even days such as this.

  2. Well said! As a former home-schooler/public schooler/private schooler, I can say that this is absolutely true. When we were home-schooled my mom taught us that learning was fun- that learning was something that you can do whether you're taking a walk or visiting a museum. The things I learned with her stuck with me throughout the rest of my schooling. It was not the home-schooling itself that made the impact, though, because I know other home-schoolers who turned out differently. My mom instilled us with certain values and that made all the difference.

  3. Kelli, glad I could encourage! You're an inspiration to me; you're the one who made it all look doable (even if it's just the coffee talking sometimes).
    20-Something, I love you AND your mama ;-)

  4. How in all of our chats did I never know you'd be homeschooling? We go back and forth discussing what we'll do with our unborn chitlins. Since we both grew up going to private school K-12 I have a leaning towards it for the merge of religion and education. But, then we also moved to a great public school district. I'm glad you can give me the perspective of all sides since I hadn't even considered homeschooling.

  5. Nerd, I've been at it for a week. So hold off having children for at least a month or two so that I can amass more experience to offer you two. ;-)

  6. perfect. i love a good guinea pig.