Educating Our Children
A threefold cord
A Reformed education is the strength of our covenant children. Solomon in his wisdom wrote in the last part of verse 12 of Ecclesiastes 4, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Have you ever seen one of those heavy ropes that are used to secure a large boat to a dock? If you examine it closely enough you will find that it is made up of several cords wound together for strength. This is what Solomon speaks of when he writes of a threefold cord. A rope that is made up of three thick cords is not quickly broken. It is strong. This figure we can apply to the Christian education we receive in a solidly Reformed Christian school.
The Bible speaks of two basic spheres where parents are called to instruct their children in the fear of the Lord. One sphere is the church. Covenant parents must see to it that their children are instructed in the things of the kingdom of God by bringing them under the preaching of the Word on Sunday and in the catechism room. This instruction in the church is as a powerful cord that works and strengthens faith in the hearts of our children. If we desire that our children be strong in the faith, then we as parents must see to it that from infancy on they come under the preaching.
The other sphere where we are called to instruct our children is in the home. All instruction of children other than that received in the church is given by God into the hands of parents. All secular instruction, that is, education in the things of this world as well as religious instruction is given into the hands of fathers and mothers in the home. That instruction is as a second strong cord which, when wound together with the first cord of instruction in the church, makes our children strong in the faith.
But these are only two cords of the rope. Solomon speaks of a threefold cord not being quickly broken. There is also a third cord of instruction: that received in the Reformed Christian school. Now, we need to be careful at this point because the education in the school is not some-thing that stands in its own right. The Bible does not command us to send our children to a school. The Bible teaches us of two spheres where instruction of children must be given: the church and the home. But we add this extra cord to the basic two because this third cord of covenant education in the Reformed day school, when wound together with the other two, makes for a solid rope of education that cannot be easily broken.
For that reason, Reformed Christian education is not merely a matter of preference. We do not send our children to a Christian school that is Reformed in nature because it is just a nice school which we prefer over others. We send them to this type of school because we are convicted in our hearts and souls of the necessity of an education in the secular things of this life from a Reformed perspective. We send them to a Reformed school because we believe it is for their spiritual welfare. We wish to use every strand available to give our children the best instruction in the fear of the Lord possible. We must take our calling as believing parents that seriously! Even if we must empty our bank accounts to send our children to a Reformed Christian school. We must be convicted of it!
Have you ever stopped to figure out how many hours of the day our children spend in school? I believe that the number is close to seven hours. That is a large share of our children’s lives. If they sleep, let’s say, another eight hours in that day, that means that we as parents are with our school-age children far less than half of their day. The reality we confront is: our children are outside of the home being taught – not by us – but by others a large share of the time out of every day. Their hearts and minds are as sponges absorbing every bit of instruction they receive whether in the home or outside of the home. It ought to be of utmost concern to us as Reformed parents, therefore, to whom we entrust the care and instruction of our children. Who is it outside of the home that is teaching our children their values and goals in life? Surely, as a covenant parent and a believing parent, I am not simply going to entrust my children into the care of just anyone. I do not want just anyone to teach my children – even in the way of academics.
State or public schools not an option for Reformed believers
This is why we ought to be convinced that the public education that is given in our State schools is not a consideration for believing parents. There are two reasons that State education is not an option for our children.
The first is this: the goal, aim, or purpose of State or public education is wrong. We must not think that the education given in any school is simply random instruction that has no goal or purpose to it. Every teacher well knows that the teacher does not simply come to school and start teaching without any aim or purpose to his or her instruction in the classroom. There are teacher’s meetings and board meetings all of which determine the specific goals of education. It is not only simplistic but foolish to think that education whether private or public has no aim or direction. And the goal or aim of the education given in our public school system stands opposed to Christianity.
I know that is a bold claim to make: that the goal of State education has become anti-Christian. We might have friends or even family that are involved in this system of education – not only as students but as teachers too. These friends or family are good Christians and they try to make an impact where they can. Even in light of this, we must understand the goal or end of public education. For that reason, I want to make it clear that though this claim I make is bold, it is not rash. State education is not only funded by the government but it is the government who through its own educators, its own appointees develop the goals and standards for that education. One such well-known and well respected educator in the sphere of State education is John Dunphy who wrote an award winning essay in the periodical, Humanist Magazine. In that article entitled, “A Religion for a New Age,” he wrote:
“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom. By teachers who correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being.”1
Prof. Benjamin S. Bloom who in his various books has influenced the curriculum used in Michigan schools defines what good teaching is, and also what the purpose of the public school must be.
He writes that good teaching is, “a teachers ability to challenge the students beliefs.”2
Elsewhere, he writes: “the purpose of the schools is to change the thoughts, feelings, and actions of students.”3
Marilyn Ferguson has been a leading figure in New Age Movement since the 1980s. She is not associated, however, with that side of the New Age Movement that involves itself in the sensational, commercialized hype. She is an educator who has written text books for the public school system in California. She has been of much influence in the whole realm of education in our country. She writes in her book, The Aquarian Conspiracy:
Subtle forces are at work, factors you are not likely to see in banner headlines. For example, tens of thousands of classroom teachers, educational consultants and psychologists, counselors, administrators, researchers, and faculty members in colleges of education have been among the millions engaged in personal transformation. They have only begun to link regionally and nationally, to share strategies, to conspire for the teaching of all they most value: freedom, high expectations, awareness, patterns, connections, creativity. They are eager to share their discoveries with those colleagues ready to listen.4
The perceptive reader ought not be fooled by the lofty and noble language that Ferguson uses in this instance. What she means by “freedom, high expectations, awareness, patterns, connections, and creativity” in education she defines later in that same chapter of her book.
A major ambition of the curriculum is autonomy. This is based on the belief that if our children are to be free, they must be free even from us – from our limiting beliefs and our acquired tastes and habits. At times this means teaching healthy, appropriate rebellion, not conformity. Maturity brings with it a morality that derives from the innermost self, not from mere obedience to the culture’s mores.5
Many more quotes can be cited from a whole host of writers involved in delineating the goals for State education and involved in the development of curriculum. No parent need take my word for this. There are plenty of books available on the market that can inform us of the goal of public school educators.
The State schools have also developed and are putting into place a certain method of education that achieves these goals. Perhaps you have heard of it already: it is called “outcome based education.” This type of education is not interested so much in imparting to students an objective body of knowledge to learn. This education is geared toward shaping and molding the student’s beliefs. It is geared toward reshaping the values and behavior of children to fit the values and beliefs of the State. Children are no longer viewed as the peculiar possession of parents. They are wards of the State and the State must see to it in its education that these children learn behavior that is acceptable to the State.
Here is an example of what is meant by outcome based education. Across the country teachers are using a “Developing Nurturing Skills” curriculum, which tells fifth-graders:
“You are expected to keep confidential anything that is discussed in this classroom.”
Then, children are given a handout called, “MY BELIEF – MY PARENTS’ BELIEFS.”
Fifth graders dutifully fill in the blanks for the questions such as:
“Women should stay at home to raise children. My belief: _______. My parents’ belief: _______.“
And, “Religion should be an important part of everyone’s life. My belief: _______. My parent’s belief: ________.”6
This is just an example of what is being done in schools across the land – even, sad to say, in many Christian schools.
What types of values does the State attempt to instill in students by means of its outcome based education? Here are but a few:
- limiting the family to two children;
- Christianity is only one acceptable religion among many others;
- fornication is acceptable behavior as long as one is safe;
- abortion may be a necessity in a young woman’s life;
- parent’s rule is secondary to State rule.
There are the humanistic goals of State education as well, such as:
- man must look inside of himself to fulfill all his needs since all men have in them potential that has no limitations.
There are many other goals of State education as well. These are but a few. Again, a parent need not take my word in these matters. There are books that fill the shelves of bookstores which expose the goals and the methods of public education in our country. To give our children to the public schools of today for six to seven hours out of every day is giving our lambs to the wolves. From that point of view alone State education of covenant children is not an option.
Who should educate
There is a second reason that public education of covenant children by the State is not an option. It is not the duty or the calling of the State either to provide education or determine the content of the education of children. We certainly can understand well why the State has assumed this task to itself. In fact, the reason is a noble one. Government has seen the neglect of this important matter, i.e., the education of children, by parents. The government has taken this task upon itself in order to avoid a nation of ignoramuses. Far too many parents would fail to instruct their children in the essentials of life. The State therefore rightfully requires of all parents to see to it that their children receive an education. The Scripture is clear in Romans 13 and other passages that it belongs to the authority of the State to make and uphold laws that will care for and protect its citizens even in the area of education. But the government oversteps its bounds when it takes upon itself the actual education itself.
Although we certainly can be thankful that, at this time, the State does not demand we use its education, nevertheless that it assumes as its task the actual education of our children does not lie within its sphere of authority. The Bible clearly teaches that all instruction of children is given into hands of parents. Parents are duty bound to teach their children. And certainly if they are unable to do so, as is true of most of us, they must be in complete control of their children’s education. The instruction of their children ought not be subject to the control of the State.
That this duty belongs to parents and not State is simple to find in Scripture. We read in Deuteronomy 6:6, 7:
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up.”
We read in Ephesians 6:4: “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
We read in Psalm 78:5, 6: “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel; which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born: who should arise and declare them to their children.”
It is on the basis of Scripture that the Church Order of Dordrecht includes Article 21:
“The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.”
The duty to instruct our children belongs to parents. It is a demand of the covenant. Neither is this duty limited only to the religious life of our children. All instruction, even in the academics of life, may never be divorced from faith or the objective rule of the Scriptures. Math, history, geography, music, English all need to be taught from a Scriptural perspective. And the parent is called by God to teach their children all of these things from that perspective. The Bible really teaches us of two spheres where learning must take place. These coupled together make our instruction strong: the church and the home.
But the point is here: public schooling is principally not an option. It does not belong to the State to see to it our children are educated and instructed even in things academic. This is a duty that belongs to the home. It is a calling that belongs to parents. Parents therefore must have the say-so in what is taught their children. And in these last days in which we live, this principle certainly is bearing itself out. We must be convicted of the need of parental instruction of our children. They are children of the covenant and of the church of Christ in this world. They are not wards of the State.
Why we have schools
But how do we make the jump from the need for parents to instruct their children in these things to the fact that we are having a school do this for us? First of all, consider who runs the Reformed Christian day school. Parents do. Not the teachers. Not even the school board ultimately runs the school. The parents of those children who attend the school are in control of the education in Reformed Christian schools. Parents teach their children by means of a school board and by means of our teachers, but the Reformed Christian school is a parental school.
Most of us as parents do not have the time or the stamina to instruct our children in academics. In fact, we might as well admit it: most of us do not have the ability to teach our children in these academics. Some of us do, of course. But what is true of a few certainly is not true of most parents. Dr. H. Bouwman in his book Scholen (translated into the English: Schools) describes the origin of schools:
And according as humanity broadened out, and the need of intellectual development arose, the parents felt that they could not fulfill the task of rearing and instructing by themselves, and they looked for help. Before long, the parents formed an association in order jointly to appoint one to rear and instruct and – with this the school was born.7
In other words, our Christian schools arose out the desire of Christian parents to keep their children abreast of the academics.
And surely there is a need for that. The rate that knowledge is increasing in so many different areas of life is something with which I, as a parent, cannot keep up. So Reformed parents find teachers who believe the same way they do and who are willing to teach their covenant children in these areas. We do not simply find any teacher who comes along to teach our children the academics of life. We find Christian teachers to do this. We realize that these subjects must be taught from the perspective of the Scriptures. It is for that reason that we establish Christian schools and not simply parental schools. As fellow Christians we band together because we share in common our Christianity. Our school boards therefore are made up of men who are followers of Christ together with us. Our teachers are followers of Christ who themselves seek to walk in His footsteps. And we together take great care to teach our children to be followers of Christ in everything that they do.
Reformed and Christian schools
Yet, there is something more involved in establishing a school than simply a “generic” Christian school. There are lots of Christian schools available. But a Reformed believer must choose to send, if at all possible, his children to a Christian school which teaches them through the eyes of the Reformed faith. Why? Because they are Reformed believers! These parents maintain that the Reformed faith as set forth in the Reformed Confessions are the truth of the Scripture. That, in turn, means two things as far as the education of their children is concerned.
It means, first of all, that the instruction Reformed parents desire for their children in the Christian school is taught from a distinctively Reformed perspective. The doctrines of the Reformed faith sharply distinguish that school from those schools which teach the free-will of fallen man, the general love of God for every man, and the universal atonement of Christ for every person.
A Reformed parent desires that his children look at math, reading, history, or whatever the subject might be through Reformed spectacles. He wants them to see and understand the sovereignty of God in creation, in history, and in God’s work in His church. He wants his children to see things from a biblical perspective – that means through the glasses of the Reformed faith. That is what sets apart a Reformed Christian school from others.
That means, in the second place, that a Reformed believer desires to have his children taught as covenant children. It is not only State run schools that have certain perspectives on education. There are different perspectives in Christian education as well. Some Christian schools are established for the purpose of converting children. All the classes are geared toward converting children – as if children of believing parents are all unbelievers who need to accept Christ.
Reformed believers maintain that God normally regenerates and calls children of believers in infancy and therefore there is no need to try and persuade children to accept Christ by means of their education. Reformed parents cling to covenant promises of God and maintain that the children God has given them are therefore children of the covenant and ought to be treated as such. And for that reason a Reformed parent,when given the opportunity, seeks out a school that is both Christian, but more specifically, Reformed and Christian in its perspective.
Just a question yet: call it a challenge, if you will. How convicted are you of Reformed Christian education? Do you send your children to a Reformed school because you simply prefer it? Is it to you just a nice school, it has good teachers, the education received in it is academically excellent, or because it is in the neighborhood?
Certainly we cannot convict those who are not convicted. But it was indeed that conviction, I believe, which motivated solidly Reformed fathers and mothers in the past and in the present to establish the schools that we have. If it were not for that conviction, these schools would have failed. The Reformed Christian schools of today need people who are spiritually convicted.
As for this believing parent a Christian school of this sort is not a preference! To send my children to a public school when given this blessed option, would be wrong. My children and their souls are too precious to me. I take my calling as a parent that seriously! I refuse to play games with their spiritual lives for any reason. I thank God that He has in His grace worked the faith and courage in the hearts of believing parents to establish Reformed schools where I can send my children. What a tremendous blessing!