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Education: Three Guiding Principles

In my last article on the topic of education I made the argument that education itself can sometimes be elevated in our hearts to a place of importance that it should not hold. It can even become more important and defining for us than the truth of the gospel. I gave three signs that this exchange of value has taken place in your heart. If you are more consumed with your child’s educational performance than their spiritual maturity, if you find more meaningful community with those in your educational community than your church, or if your educational preference has become a source of division between you and those who choose other avenues of education, then you have elevated education to a place that it does not belong.

In this article, I would like to give three guiding principles that can help your thinking as you choose what form of education is right for your family. While there are several variations and options available in this choice there are three basic choices: public/government funded education, private education, and home centered education. The attempt in this article is not to highlight one option over another. In fact, I believe that each choice has real advantages and some very real dangers of which every Christian parent ought to be aware. Instead, I hope to give some clear, guiding principles that will serve to help your thinking as you make the choice—or need encouragement in the choice you have made—for your child’s education.

Guiding Principle #1

The choice you make for your child’s education ought to be an intentional choice made with the great commission in mind. When Jesus gave the command to make disciples in Matthew 28 he started with the statement, “All authority is given to me in heaven and in earth.” Simply put, Jesus’ authority is the basis for the command to make disciples of all people groups. This is the task that he has laid on his followers. It is not something we do in our spare time or that we take up if we feel especially gifted. It is the task of every follower of Jesus—the one who has all authority over everything. So, when I choose a place to educate my child one of the first questions I need to ask is, “where can I best follow my Lord’s command to make disciples?”

“None of the options are spiritual ‘safe’ zones where parents can kick into neutral and coast.”

Making disciples involves calling others to submission to the gospel and then about obediently growing and helping others grow in spiritual maturity. You have a responsibility to your own gospel growth and to the conversion and growth of those in your family. When there is gospel growth taking place in your life and in your home, it will have an impact on the community around you and ultimately to the furthest reaches of the globe. When you make the decision about educating your child my desire would be that you would indeed have your own gospel growth in mind as well as the regeneration and spiritual growth of your children but that you would also want to have a gospel impact on your community and beyond. In other words, your decision should be about the gospel more than just education.

Guiding Principle #2

Parents are the primary disciple makers of their children no matter what educational choice they make. The job of a parent to “raise up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” is not optional for a Christian parent. It is a command. It is also not a job where you can outsource to another or take an extended break. Each educational option presents obstacles that a parent will need to overcome in their task to discipline and instruct as well as opportunities of which they will need to take advantage. None of the options are spiritual “safe” zones where parents can kick into neutral and coast. We must be proactive. Each choice also provides great opportunity for gospel growth. We as parents must diligently seek out and recognize those opportunities to make the most of them.

The greatest misconception I find when talking to parents about how education fits with their responsibility as primary faith trainers is that somehow keeping kids at home for school is more conducive to fulfilling this task than the other schooling options. On the surface this makes logical sense due to proximity of parent to child as well as the ability to control content and learning environment. However, over and over again it has been clearly demonstrated that no matter what learning environment is chosen it is always the obedience and diligence of the parent to fulfill their responsibility that makes the most impact.

Guiding Principle #3

There is no option that will escape the sinfulness of your child’s heart—or your own heart for that matter. Do you remember Noah? If ever there was an opportunity to escape sin Noah had it. God actually wiped clean the face of the earth from all the sinful people and their wickedness. While He did this He took the most righteous family and put them on a boat. The problem, though, was that the most righteous family got off the boat too. As soon as they did, it was clear sin hadn’t gone anywhere.

“Public school can’t ruin your children because they are already ruined by their sin.”

In regards to education let me say that not one of these schooling options will produce righteousness in your child. Each option will, in fact, serve to manifest sin in their hearts giving you as the parent plenty of things to work on for spiritual growth.

Let me make the point clearly. Have you ever heard the statement, “public school will ruin your children.” What is wrong with that idea? Well, public school can’t ruin your children because they are already ruined by their sin. What your child will have in public school is more avenues to expose their sinful heart. Public school won’t ruin them. It will expose them and that is actually a really good thing. We could say similar things about Christian school and homeschool. The fact of the matter is, all three of these schooling options have something in common. They all involve sinful people trying to do something together that will eventually bring out the sin in everybody involved. Thus, each choice has great potential for gospel growth.