To know God and to make Him known.

The Essential Ingredients of Education: Student, Teacher, and a Log?

Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

Original Post Date: July 10, 2011

It has been quoted that all that is needed for education is a student, a teacher, and a log on which to sit. This is a great sentiment and I greatly appreciate it, but it is not quite the biblical paradigm. If we turn to Deuteronomy 6 for a more biblical model, we find a slightly different scenario. We have the teachers, who are parents; we have the students, who happen to be children of the parents; but instead of a log, we have God. That is the biblical recipe for successful education. So let’s dig in and explore some of the nuances.

In the first verse of Deuteronomy 6, we are expressly put into the context of education: “…the Lord your God commanded me to teach you…” Verse 2 spells out the core ingredients: you and your sons, and God’s statures and commandments, and even your reward or evaluation, that it may go well with you in the land you will possess.

Teachers and Students. The parents and children are in a familial relationship obviously, but notice here that this relationship explicitly includes teacher-student expectations. There may be a hundred reasons for homeschooling our children, but I will optimistically propose that first among these reasons is our desire to be obedient, faithful, and biblical. In no uncertain terms, it is our job to train our own children in the ways of the Lord and the ways they should go. This is a full-time vocation (calling) that does not start or stop with the obnoxious ringing of a school-wide bell. As we observe in verse 7, “You shall teach them diligently to your children”; this is not something we pay someone else to do, and certainly not something we have undermined by the local “feducation” system. No, this is our job that we are to do diligently.

In what contexts should we teach them? Well verse 7 states when we sit at home or walk by the way; or to say it another way, in both private settings as well as in the public square. Opportunities abound in both cases as we come to realize that the world is our classroom. Home is generally a controlled environment where we can sit down and map out our lesson plans, teaching the Lordship of Christ over all disciplines, while prioritizing our knowledge of God and our obedience to him. The public square is not a controlled environment and the practice of holy living can be fleshed out in front of our children’s eyes in impactful ways. As we take our student-children shopping and we are confronted with a grumpy employee, how we respond is an opportunity for education. Hopefully it is consistent with our educational attitudes in the controlled environment of the home. Perhaps we will run into someone we know who needs counsel or prayer, our compassion, and the time we give them will teach volumes. Our verbal appreciation for truth, beauty, and goodness will infect our children’s general worldview. Our assessment of the ills of society will give our children a critical eye for the way things are versus the way things ought to be. And when we have caused them to see the disparity, we can take our educational lesson to the next logical level by raising the question how the situation may be redeemed for the Lord, and how we can positively shape our culture.

When should we teach them? Back to verse 7 that presents the duration of our educating from rising in the morning to collapsing in our beds at night. Nothing in the meantime is meant to be parenthetical. If a water pipe breaks in the middle of a history lesson, and the lesson is temporarily suspended, education goes on by means of our reaction (both positive and negative) to the temporary disaster. In an optimum scenario, if we have the competence, we could/should educate them how it can be fixed as we gather the tools and parts, and talk through it in a hands-on approach to the solution. In home education there is no recess or lunch that breaks from education, it is all education that occurs in a variety of contexts. This is tiring work, but if we have the children, it only means that God knows we are capable of accomplishing the task with, of course, his Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us.

The Curriculum. Statutes, commandments, decrees, rules, etc.; nothing brings a tear of boredom to a child quicker than those words. So what’s the solution? Get rid of them? Certainly not, both Jesus and Paul would argue. The solution is to introduce them to the holy character of the Divine Lawgiver. Let them fall in love with him and let their obedience to his laws be an acceptable act of worship rather than a begrudging act of compulsion. Only after falling in love with his character can they ever reach a point where they can harmonize with Psalm 119’s composer who joyfully praises God for his character and the invaluable worth of his commandments. This is good tutoring, but when the time is right and after getting to know the character and heart of God can we then bring them to the very lesson of Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Interestingly enough, the first of these two greatest commandment summaries come right out of the text of Deuteronomy 6. This greatest commandment has been paraphrased as: “Love God wholeheartedly and your neighbor like yourself, and then do whatever you want.” It sounds sketchy but if we pursue a true knowledge of God and a pure love for God, I am willing to trust the Holy Spirit for the rest.

All of this is foundational for all other curriculum learning. Medieval scholastics termed theology as the queen of sciences, and by this designation, they meant several things. First, that its Divine subject and content were above all else. Second, that only through a serious study of theology would any semblance of proper knowledge be acquired in any other discipline. The same is true for our home educational goals; we must teach them the character of God in its proper and biblical light in order to see all other subjects by that same light. The connection between God and everything else is not only fitting, but also crucial to real understanding.

Evaluation. I would be a rich man if I got a nickel every time I have heard a student (not my children, but my formal students) ask me if I would grade a certain exam on a curve. I have many quick-witted responses but the first thing out of my mouth exposes my theological mindedness: “God does not grade on a curve, he has set a standard, and since it is my goal in life to be like God, neither will I grade on a curve.” We are living in an educational era when grade-inflation is a documented occurrence. We may be tempted to give our children better grades to compete with those we know are inflating their grades unjustifiably. Well firstly, this is dishonest, and secondly, it is trivial. Our goals should be to present our children and ourselves with the tenacity and drive to imitate the character of Christ and to be conformed into his image. Let our God be our evaluator just as he is in Deuteronomy 6. If they obeyed, he promised it will go well with them and their days would be long, and they would multiply greatly in a land of milk and honey. I am not saying that grades are not good evaluation tools; they are but they are not eternally significant. Nor am I saying that our evaluation from God will be a long life of prim rose petals as a reward of our obedience. That was God’s promise to Israel upon entering the Promised Land; our evaluation will look different, but the Evaluator will not. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God will evaluate us by his rewards and by his discipline, and will lead us into the path of his righteousness. Our evaluation will be both temporal and eternal, and the only true evaluation with which we should be concerned.

CATEGORIES: Articles, Big Ideas: Truth, Beauty, Goodness and more!, Classical Christian Education, Homeschooling Life

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