SojournKids

School Age

Christian Freedom & Parenting, Part 5: Schooling

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Schooling controversies for Christians were born just as Christianity was getting started .

As a young family in Jefferson County, we were overwhelmed with the school choices available to us! We have great public schools in our cluster. We have great private schools to choose from, and, of course, educating in the home is an option for a family.  With our first child we were accepted at two schools - a public magnet, and private school. I remember agonizing over the decision.  We prayed and fasted.  At that time, we believed that one of our choices was morally right and the other morally wrong, and we believed there would be severe consequences for choosing the wrong school. We made our choice, and we were happy there for several years.  After her being in the home for five years, it was agonizing to send our precious little baby-girl into someone else’s care for 7 hours every day!!!  We have since decided to do things differently, but we donʼt see our first choice as morally wrong.  Rather, a different choice is better for our family in this season.

When Christianity was born, schools were not merely secular. They were pagan.  As a teacher, you were expected to reverence all sorts of false gods in your classroom.  Faced with this system, Tatian, an early Christian writer, argued that all Christians should pull their children out of these schools, declaring, “We renounce your wisdom and we no longer concern ourselves with your tenets.  We follow God’s Word instead.”[1] Many heeded his call and followed the ancient Jewish practice of home education.  The early pastor, Tertullian, disagreed, encouraging Christians to leave their children in these schools even though most Christian teachers could not work there with a clear conscience.  A converted schoolteacher, Pantaenus, had another idea: Why not start a Christian academy to teach children a Christian perspective on all of life?  And so schooling controversies for Christians were born just as Christianity was getting started.

As Christian families, we usually take one of two routes when it comes to school choice.  We’re either lazy and uninvolved in thinking about how our children should be educated, or we are self-righteous and judge other families that have made different choices.

As a family that has done public, private, and homeschooling, we’ve come to see that school choice is a matter of Christian freedom.  There is no morally right or morally wrong answer so long as your conscience is clear.  There are preferences or styles we may esteem, but there is no one right answer.

What about you?  As a parent, do you find self-justification in where you send your children to school?  Whether you desire to send [or already send] your children to private or public school... whether you home school or “Unschool,” do not look down at your brother and sister for their choices.  There is no righteousness apart from Christ.

On the other hand, have you thought through your options?  Are you taking responsibility for your child’s education or are you being lazy?  Parents are charged in Proverbs 22:6 to “Train up a child in the way he should go.”  Psalm 78 has helped us to change and understand that we teach our children all of the time in the way we pay attention when speaking with them and through showing them what we truly value in how we spend our time.  I’ve learned that I’m educating my kids when we’re playing video games.  But considering their formal education is another important part of my leadership as a dad, and yours too.  Where or however your child receives his education, you as the parent are ultimately responsible for the educational process.  So, inform your conscience. Take your responsibility seriously and think this through.


[1] Tatian, Oratio ad Graecos, quoted in Perspectives on Your Child’s Education: 4 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones, (Broadman & Holman, 2009), 3.  This entire paragraph is adapted from pages 3-5 of this book.

Basic Training

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Parenting School Age Children, Session 6: In this final session, we attempt to put a bow around this topic of parenting school-age children by focusing on one last, but very important topic – character, looking at it from a Biblical perspective.

Before our children go off to kindergarten, our primary focus, as parents, is on obedience; that is, teaching our children to submit to our authority, as agents of God.  This is typically expressed within the realms of obedience and defiance.

But as our children begin that incremental journey away from our constant care and attention, there is a shift in our focus, as parents.  In the school years, we begin to deal, more and more, with behavior that is undesirable, though it may not be disobedient or defiant.  And this is where our parenting must become more sophisticated, because instead of dealing with the black and white issues of doing as they are told, we are now into the shades of gray in between, where our children must learn to use judgment, especially when they are away from our ever watchful eye.

It’s not enough that our children share when they are told.  Rather, we want to raise children who understand why selfishness is wrong and move in the opposite, godly direction.

Download the full class notes for this session or view all of the Sojourn Home Parenting Classes.

The Rod

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Parenting School Age Children, Session 5: The idea of spanking children is a controversial one in this country.  There are many people, so-called experts among them, who believe that spanking is an outmoded and even barbaric way of disciplining children.  Many see our children as morally neutral beings who need to be gently pointed in the “right” direction.

A quick scan of the Bible shows us that this isn’t so.

Psalm 51:5 – “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

Hebrews 12:11 – “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Proverbs 29:15 & 17 – “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.  Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” We’ve talked about the book of Proverbs and how the fool and wise man are repeatedly contrasted – the fool being the one who refuses to submit to God’s authority.  Proverbs is filled with warnings against foolishness, and when these warnings are ignored, along with our instruction, entreaties, and rebukes, then we must move to another form of discipline that will help our children understand the consequences of a life of foolishness and teach them to submit to God’s authority.

In this session we look at the proper application of the rod, that is spanking, and its role in teaching our children to live under God’s authority, with parents as His agent.

Download the full class notes for this session or view all of the Sojourn Home Parenting Classes.

A Key Element of Parenting: Communication

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Parenting School Age Children, Session 4 As parents, it’s easy to fall into the trap of lecturing to our children.  Often, in an attempt to be efficient, we deal with improper behavior by lecturing our children, rather than engaging them in a more effective manner.  In this session, we take a look at some goals for communicating with our children - chiefly to seek to understand their hearts.

Tripp lays out a two-pronged approach to discipline that combines the use of what he calls the rod (that is, spanking) with deep communication.  He argues that both are needed in equal measure for a balanced and Godly approach to shepherding our children.

Tripp writes, “Communication not only disciplines, it also disciples.  It shepherds your children in the ways of God.”

We must break free from the thinking that arises out of our busyness and leads to parenting choices based on expediency.  Deep communication takes time, and Deuteronomy 6 commands us to make the time necessary to understand our children and let them be understood:  “Impress (these commandments) on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Download the full class notes for this session or view all of the Sojourn Home Parenting Classes.

You're In Charge!

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Parenting School Age Children, Session 2 In this session, we deal with the idea of authority – how we, as a culture, chafe at the idea of it, how we as parents struggle with it, and how our children resist it.  Our key passage comes from Psalm 114:44-45 - “I will always obey your law, for ever and ever.  I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.”

As parents, we have authority because God calls us to be authorities in our children’s lives.  We act on God’s behalf, directing as God pleases, not how we are pleased.  This is an important distinction.  We are God’s surrogates; his agents, and as such, we have a mandate to exercise godly authority over our children, instructing them in the ways of the Lord.

As we teach our children to submit to Godly authority, as expressed through us, we also model submission as we parent according the commands of the Bible.

Download the class notes for this session or view all of the Sojourn Home Parenting Classes.