This is second in a series on educating our children. The first in the series ended:

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 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.

What does make a difference? Always and forever? Without fail? Now and eternally?

The next post will take up that question.

Alright, this is that next post. Lists are fun, so here are ten things a dad can do for his children that will make a difference in their education.

  1. Read, then share what you read with your children and talk to them about it. If you’re lazy intellectually, your children will be worse. It is criminal for a Christian to be incurious. It doesn’t have to be theological. Fiction or sports articles are fine. Read, share, and talk.
  2. Eat together. After decades throwing money at our public education system, it turns out nothing worked. Researchers found the best predictor of educational success is children sitting at the table, eating with their families. Eat together and talk about whatever interests you and your children. Don’t stifle it by forcing an “improving conversation.” 1
  3. Discipline your children’s homework. Don’t let it eat your family life. Don’t let your children do any homework or studying on Sunday. When our eldest, Heather, was a student at Taylor University, she said she was the only student she knew who didn’t study on the Lord’s Day. We were proud of her. If your children have to study on Sunday in order to get an A, tell them Bs are fine.
  4. Discipline your children’s teachers. More than once I had to explain to my children’s teachers that I wasn’t going to allow school to get in the way of my son or daughter’s education. Since I was a pastor, it was hard to get away on weekends, so when I went on trips (say to presbytery meetings), I took my children out of school so they could go with me. One principal I went in to explain this to warned me Joseph would get a failing grade for every day he missed. I said that was fine. It was.
  5. Have your children memorize chapters of the Bible. Sure, memorizing verses can be good, but chapters are better. Something about the text in its context. Isaiah 53:6 needs to appear in the middle of verses 1-12. Trust me. Dad made me memorize Isaiah 53, so I know. It was a battle to get me to do it. It was worth it. Isaiah 53. Psalm 103. Psalm 1. John 15. All of James. John 1…
  6. Kill snobbery in your children. Don’t put it in them yourself, and don’t allow your wife to put it in them. They are not better or smarter than the guy who lives in a doublewide and does roofing. The only person they’re better and smarter than is the homeschooled smartypants who can’t think and has neither wisdom nor humility. Only humble people really think. The rest never stop burnishing their image, so they only catch factoids and prejudices.
  7. Don’t take your children to the Creation Museum. Take them to the Museum of Natural History and argue with the exhibit propaganda. If you don’t force your children to argue with you at the dinner table, they’ll be sitting ducks for the intellectual posers who are about to get them when they arrive at the university.
  8. Don’t send your children to any safe school or college. There are no safe schools or colleges, so if you think you’ve found one, you’re wrong. God is safe. God’s Word is safe. The Church is safe. Christian schools and colleges are not safe. The problem with Christian colleges is you don’t know who the enemy is, whereas at secular schools, it’s clear. Dad said this after decades of campus ministry, and he’s still right.
  9. Speaking of the Church being safe, never ever ever undercut the church’s discipline of your children. Not when she’s right and not when she’s wrong. Today, discipline is a rare, and therefore precious, commodity. Do nothing to discourage it! The most important thing for your children to learn is that the Church is their Mother and they must feed at her breast until God calls them home. (If you’re wondering, I’m only quoting John Calvin.)
  10. Submit to the Church’s admonitions, exhortations, and rebukes as you raise your children. If your children see you honor God’s authority over you, they will honor your authority over them. The most challenging time is when your children are finishing school and getting ready to go off on their own. As they become adults, you and your wife will be humiliated by their failures and sins. Your work is nearly complete and its quality will be visible for all to see. Precisely then, love the Church as it loves you and your sons and daughters. Sure, it’s painful, but we’ve all been through it. You want your children to continue to grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, right? Then love the church’s discipline and show your love for it to your precious children. This is the first and last step in educating your children.

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1”For school-age youngsters, regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.” (Anne Fishel, “The Most Important Thing You Can Do with Your Kids,” Washington Post, January 12, 2015.)

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