In the first part of this series, we asked the question “Who owns my kids?” Not the State, and not your kids themselves, but you – you own your kids. But maybe you were left wondering, "Where do we go from here? What does proper education look like?"
In this article, we will examine who really owns your kids and what that means while they are young. This article will look to the foundations of education. The one following this (Part III) will seek to build upon this foundation and discuss what education looks like in the later stages of your child’s growing up. That article will discuss the structure of education itself.
Before continuing, we need to clarify a point. Last time we pressed that you own your kids. That's true – you do own your kids – but at the same time, they're ultimately not yours. What kind of paradox is that? God has entrusted these children – His creation – to you for you to steward according to His way. This means that, if there is a Biblical way to educate your children, it is your responsibility – and should be your joy – to educate your children in such a manner… but how, you ask? First, I submit to you three foundational principles of “pre-education” that are to permeate the family and the home even before the years of formal education begin.
Deuteronomy 6 has much to say about training up children. Particularly, listen to verses 4-9:
“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.”
May we too hear! Yahweh instructs His people not only to love Him, but also to teach the whole counsel of God to their children. The Lord wants parents and grandparents to cultivate a love for Him in their children. Notice how Yahweh has instructed this process to happen: Sitting in the house, walking by the way, lying down, rising, etc. Cultivating a love for God in your children permeates all aspects of life.
So what does this mean practically? Here are two suggestions as you seek to lay a godly foundation for the coming generations.
Pray Together. Have a family prayer time each day, and make it a priority. Teach your children how to pray, and demonstrate why prayer is important. Pray before meals – not rotely, but to highlight the Lord’s bountiful provision. Pray before bed – not to check a box, but to remind children that even sleeping is an act of trust in the Lord, and He must take pre-eminence even at bedtime.
Serve Together. Be actively involved in your local church, and don’t leave your kids out of it! Obviously, when they are young and still non-members, they will not be serving themselves. Introducing them, however, to your serving adventures whets their appetite for future service on their own. It exposes them to what ministry is like and shows them how it looks to love God by serving His body.
In the last letter he wrote before dying, Paul reminds Timothy – his son in the faith – about his Scripture-saturated childhood. He says in 2 Timothy 3:14-15:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
It is good to saturate children in the Scripture – in fact, there is nothing better! Paul encourages Timothy based upon his childhood acquaintance with the Scriptures. Should we not also strive to cultivate this love for God’s Word in the young ones around us today? Again, let us consider practical methods of this noble endeavour.
Family Devotions. Otherwise known as family altar or family Bible time, doing studies through the Scriptures daily as a family is of vital importance to your child’s early years (and actually, all your child’s years). Two hours on a Sunday morning is not sufficient for helping your child retain the things of the Lord, and certainly will not cultivate a love for God’s Word. Raising children in God’s way is entrusted, after all, to the family (Eph 6:4).
Bible Discussions. Don’t put off talking about God’s Word until driving home from church. Talk about it at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Talk about it before, during (if possible), and after school. Talk about the most important things – God’s things – whenever you get the opportunity (Deut 6:4-9). And if you don’t get the opportunity, or don’t get it frequently enough, make the opportunity.
How can you love someone you don’t know, or someone you aren’t often around? You cannot – and thus, you also cannot obey God’s commands to love one another. We might expect society to grow more isolated, but recently we are seeing a phenomenon posing a deadly threat to the church: The isolation of Christians. If our children are led to believe this type of isolation is okay for the Church, they will not cultivate a love God’s people. Proverbs 22:6 says as follows: “Train up a child according to his way, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (LSB). If we train up a child in the way of isolation, he will be isolated when he is old. Do we want this for our children?
But how can we practically guard against it? Perhaps one of the strongest protections against this is to encourage your kids to build strong Christian relationships with other children.
Children’s Sunday School. The wonderful thing about a children’s Sunday school is that kids will get to know peers who are also (at least, they should be) plugged into a local church. They will grow together in their knowledge and practice of God’s commands, and will together have a love for God’s people sown within them. While discipleship in the home is the primary method of a child’s Biblical training, Sunday school through the local church is a wonderful complement that children invariably profit from.
Co-ops and Homeschool Groups. The wonderful thing about Co-ops and homeschool groups is that kids will get to know others older and younger than themselves. They can make friends of all ages, both discipling and being discipled. A palette of such friendships will only build a stronger infrastructure for the older years and help cultivate love for all God’s people, not just peers.
Cultivating a love for God, God’s Word, and God’s people is foundational to education itself. Cultivating these things must fill the pre-educational years and continue to undergird all types of education to come. The reason we spend so much time here is because understanding these pillars sets the stage for the fuller discussion of formal education coming next time.
Because your children are first and foremost God’s children, you must steward them in a way that honours God and in a way that obeys His instructions concerning parenting. The best way to start that is just as we have discussed: Cultivating a love for the things of the Lord. Once this is done, your children will be Biblically equipped and ready to face full-time education for the next stage of their life. What does that education look like? Such is the discussion awaiting us next time.