Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Making and Educational Decision (Part 3)

Part 1 and 2 of this series can be found here and here.

I was sitting at my son's basketball practice talking to a young mom about our kids and school. I was telling her that my son and daughter really want to be homeschooled, as they once were. She responded to me that she was opposed to homeschooling. The reason for her opposition was that she was shaped as a person by her teachers. She said to me, "my school teachers were a huge influence on me as a person. I don't want my children to miss out on this kind of influence in their lives." I was stopped in my tracks by that comment. I was stunned. My mouth was closed and that isn't easy to do!

What this mom reflected to me is actually something we intuitively know about education. We know that our teachers do influence who we are. In fact, Jesus said this very thing when talking about discipleship, "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40)." Influence is an inescapable aspect of education. People will increasingly reflect the attributes of those who disciple them. Pastors actually lament this reality when they discuss the fact that their churches will often reflect much about themselves. Parents lament this when they see their children running around as little mirrors of their own shortcomings. The principle is really quite simple. We become like those who teach us.

Thus, we would be incredibly naive not to account for "who" is teaching our children. The kind of people we want as the primary teachers of our children are those who love the Lord. We want them to be taught by those who demonstrate the character of Christ. We particularly want them to be taught by those who trust the Lord, apart from whom there is no salvation. We want them trained by those who demonstrate the "fear of the Lord," without which true knowledge is not possible. We want them to be discipled by those who "love the Lord and others," which is the sum of the Law. We want our sons and daughters to be developed as disciples of Jesus. This is the goal of Christian education. This is the responsibility inherent in the stewardship of children God has given to us.

The question is then begged whether everything my child is taught must be taught by a Christian. The answer to that question is "not necessarily." To use a non-academic example, my son has been taught how to shoot a basketball by someone who is not a Christian. Does this make my son's love of shooting a basketball an improper ordering of his affections (false worship), so that he is necessarily an idolater with regard to basketball? Of course not. However, is my son influenced by his coach and could the coach's wrong ordering of his affections influence my son in a manner that my son would love basketball too much? Yes! Further, could this same falsely directed form of worship be taught to my son by another Christian also? Yes! Frankly, my worship is often misdirected and I am certain my children's loves are shaped by me as well. 

We must be careful to avoid concluding that there is nothing good our children can learn from other fallen people, even unbelieving people. We believe in God's common grace working in unbelievers so that they often think true thoughts. Their problem is those truths are not placed in a proper worldview nor enjoyed in the context of the worship of God. With that said, we also must avoid falling into the mistaken notion that our children are not being influenced by those who teach them. 

It is our burden to make sure our children are being shaped into Christians in thinking and in the ordering of their affections (worship). This is difficult work which requires we engage with all those who are influencing our children. We must come alongside our children and help them put everything they are learning in the context of a proper worldview and worship. It will not do to fall into the error that our children have nothing good to learn from other adults (even unbelievers), nor to pretend that other teachers have no influence over what they think and love. 

Navigating the various influences you introduce into the lives of your children is difficult work and requires wisdom. In the next post, I will discuss our story and advantages / disadvantages we have found in choices we have made for our children. 

No comments: