Education: what’s a dad to do (1)
This is first in a series on educating our children.
Don’t let your boy’s schooling interfere with his education. – Mark Twain
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee. – Psalm 119:11
Soon after my book on fatherhood 1 was released, a young dad in our congregation told me he really liked the chapter on discipline because it was “practical.” But the following chapter on education not so much, he said.
I think I understand. People like to be told what the right way to educate their children is, and there are a whole host of experts quite eager to tell them. But not I.
Telling this father and his wife whether they should homeschool or what school to send their children to, what curriculum is best, what method of education will make their children love to learn and be the smartest on their block; these details are neither for me nor anyone else to say.
After all, I can’t tell a pastor how to deal with this or that parishioner in this or that situation. When I speak to pastors, I’m happy to be a sounding board for them and offer any wisdom I happen to have. But at the end of the conversation, I caution them about following any of my suggestions. They are the pastor and so they have the duty to make their decisions based on their knowledge of their sheep, and this is a personal knowledge that no one has other than the sheep’s shepherd.
The same is true with a father’s decisions concerning how to educate his sons and daughters. He is the father so he has the personal knowledge necessary to choose how to educate them according to each of their needs.
There is no right way to educate children. There is only a right way to educate one particular child at one particular time. And even then, it’s a mostly a question of wisdom.
Education is an art—not a science. No one method is always right and no one method is always wrong—including sending a child to a public school. Is that a shocker to you?
If we had the time, I could give a number of instances in which I would decide to send one of my children to public school. One of those instances was when Mary Lee and I moved to a small town in rural Wisconsin to serve our first church. The town only had 1,500 people, so a school board member, the principal of the elementary school, the district superintendent, and the high school English teacher were all members of our congregation. The teachers were overwhelmingly Christian and Mary Lee and I had no hesitation sending our children to the elementary school.
However, when we moved to Bloomington, we joined with a couple parents and started a Christian school called Lighthouse Christian Academy which Mary Lee served as board member and principal for a number of years. LCA grew to 150 students and the demands of the school, our family, and our church became too much and she resigned. My parents were similar. They founded a Christian school with several other parents back in the late forties and that school continues to this day in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Mary Lee and I have used a variety of methods to educate our children including public schools, online education, homeschooling, sending our children to Christian schools, and having our high schooler take classes at Indiana University. We even put one of our children into a private school for the deaf to help her learn to understand and serve those with special needs. The only method of education we’ve never used is boarding school.
So with our parents back in the day, Mary Lee and I are familiar with the many decisions facing parents concerning how best to educate our children. Only now, we are once-removed from these decisions because it’s no longer our children, but our grandchildren, who are having these decisions made for them.
Interestingly, our children, too, are using a variety of methods including a hybrid Christian school (part homeschool and part classroom Christian school), a classical curriculum charter public school, a classical curriculum Christian school, a non-classical curriculum Christian school, and homeschooling using a variety of different curricula and methods.
Concerning the education of our children, too many Christian churches and parents are too sure their method of education and choice of curriculum is right and adhere to it tenaciously. Slavishly. Religiously.
All of us need to get over our dogmatism about our own method of education and our own choice of curriculum. It’s unbelievably divisive in the church today. Mary Lee and I have lived long enough to know it makes little difference in the character and development of children.
What does make a difference? Always and forever? Without fail? Now and eternally?
The next post will take up that question.
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