As parents, we have a biblical mandate to care for the education of our children. Prior to the 19th century, this was assumed. Normal parents generally trained their children in whatever trade they did themselves or apprenticed their children to someone else who needed ready hands. “Book learning” such as it existed was reserved for an elite few.
Our biblical mandate is to teach our children about God and the story we find ourselves in.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV)
What is it that Israel was commanded to teach their children here? The following verses (chapters 6-8 really) contain a basic narrative of the covenant YHWH made with first Abraham and then ultimately with the whole people. This narrative was supposed to be at the core of their world view as they entered the Promised Land.
I am one of those people who believes that based on textual evidence, Deuteronomy is a revivalist text from the time of Josiah and not written at the time of Moses. [insert hisses from hyper literalists here] That is why it is called Deuteronomy, Greek for “second law” or “repeated law.” It is the second iteration of the Mosaic Torah, a revival of the law and a return to its values and core beliefs.
The failure of the people of Israel and Judah had been that they had abandoned their core beliefs. They had not understood the covenant that YHWH had created between himself and them. As a result, Israel had been destroyed and Judah had become a client state first of the Assyrians, then the Egyptians and ultimately (under Josiah’s sons) of Babylon. In order to restore order and righteousness before YHWH, the Deuteronomist calls the people to do what they had not done – to teach the subsequent generations the LAW OF YHWH.
Why do I bring all of this up?
In recent weeks, I have made a radical 180° change on the subject of education choices for our daughter. She has been in public schools for kindergarten and 1-2 grades, but this 2nd grade year has been a real trial for us.
Ariel has been taught to honor those in authority over her, so she has always been a very respectful and obedient little girl. This year, her teacher told her that she could not talk about God or the Bible in school. This was a difficult thing to obey because she has always spoken freely about faith and the Scriptures. Ariel loves the Bible and loves Jesus as only a child can.
Besides the anxiety of now having to deal with conversation in two spheres and worrying about when it is appropriate to speak her mind, Ariel now also has to deal with Nichole being sick, having cancer and going through treatment. It is an awful lot for her little mind to handle, as smart as she is.
One snowy afternoon, Ariel and I were making a snow fort and I asked her if she would like to go to Christian school. She asked me, “Like a school full of Christians?” I told her, yes. She asked, “Would I be allowed to talk about God there?” When I replied that she would, her face lit up and it was like a giant weight had been removed.
I realized that Ariel is seven years old. She is no supposed to have to decide between the sacred and the secular (a division she never learned) and which authority to please. Her responsibility should be to her mom and dad – period. And we, as her parents, need to have her educated in a manner that emphasizes our values.
Christian school is not the answer for everyone. Many kids grow up in the public education system with no problems. Ariel’s own unique personality was a determiner in considering other options. Home school is simply not an option for her. She needs the social construct. She needs the structure and companionship. But she does not need to sort out her world view at seven years old.
So, now we are trying to figure out how to make the finances work. The school she would go to has reasonable tuition costs, but we have never budgeted for such a thing so any money is a lot of money. But providentially, we have a loan maturing this summer and the monthly payment is roughly the same as the payment for Ariel’s schooling. God is good.
We’ve been tightening our belts and watching our funds a little closer, cutting out by frivolities and trying to save as much as we can.
This Friday, we are going to visit the school. I got wrangled into teaching chapel (not my favorite thing to do) and Nichole has a half day so she will be able to visit in the afternoon. Things are coming together.
The most important thing I want my readers to draw from this is actually two important things.
1. Never hold a position so tightly that the Holy Spirit can’t change your mind. My bias against many Christian schools is well-founded in Scripture and experience, but it is by no means universal.
2. There is no universal rule on which school your kids should attend. Decide based on how God has made him or her and the best way for them to grow in your shared faith.