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    The Darndest Things: Christian Education

    April 13, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’

    -Abraham Kuyper

    A few weeks ago, during our morning walk, Q.-Age-Five pointed to the school across the street from our neighborhood. “What’s that?” she asked. “It’s a school,” I answered. I thought she knew, and perhaps she did, but wanted to be sure. “Can I go there?” she asked. It was an interesting question to me, because my first two children would never have wanted to go to a school. They are both pretty introverted and place high value on time alone. Neither of them finds the idea of a daily classroom full of other children appealing.

    But Q. has always been more social, and O.-Age-Three even moreso.

    I always knew these sorts of discussions were in my future.

    “No,” I replied. I wasn’t sure what she was getting at, so I thought it best to give short answers and hear what she had to say.

    “Why not?” she asked.

    I don’t think she was asking to go, but trying to figure out why she would never go, if that makes sense.

    And so I explained, very briefly, that it was not a Christian school, and reminded her that our family believes in Christian education for Christian children.

    “There are Christian schools out there, like PVCC, the one Friend L. goes to, but our family cannot afford such a school, so I teach you myself,” I told her.

    I wanted to pour my whole heart out to her, and tell her that we wanted Jesus to be welcome in every part of her day, that He be just as welcome at math time as at Bible time, that we want her to know His Lordship over all things.

    But I kept it simple, because she is a preschooler, after all.

    She seemed to find that answer acceptable, and the day moved on without incident.

    Which brings us to yesterday, when we visited History Camp at our local Pioneer Village. Pioneer Village has, among other things, the original one-room schoolhouse from the 1800s. This is the school from our actual school district, the original school which was replaced by the school Daughter Q. had pointed at on that day a few weeks ago.

    There was a teacher from the local charter school dressed up like an old fashioned school marm, and a few students dressed up in pioneer dresses as well. Most of the time, the old schoolhouse room is locked behind glass, but on this day the door was open and our children could actually go in, take a seat beside the iron stove in real 1800s wooden desks.

    It was so perfect my friend’s daughter thought Almanzo would be there!

    When the children went inside, the teacher would first tell them a little about the schoolhouse and how a day would work, complete with pumping water outside and bringing it in. And then the children could get slates and chalk out of their desks and do a little lesson. It was really cute.

    But when I told my children to run inside, Daughter Q. hung back. She’s been sick all week, so I thought that perhaps she didn’t feel like participating, or possibly she was being sulky. I pulled her aside.

    “Don’t you want to go in with the others?” I asked. Many of her friends were inside as well.

    Mom,” she said, and she sounded irritated with me. And then she whispered, “Is this a Christian school?’

    It was all I could do not to laugh, and yet she was so sweet and concerned that I knew it would hurt her feelings if I did.

    “It’s just pretend,” I said. “You go have fun,”

    And off she ran.

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    16 Comments

  • Reply ...they call me mommy... April 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Love this!!! I’ve run into this myself…love the way you explained this to her…we’ve run into things with our children and friends that go to public school…liked shocked looks on their faces and they say, “You go WHERE?!” Oops! 😉 *blush* Makes me rethink how we convey things/attitudes/convictions!

  • Reply sara April 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Brandy, Sorry for taking so long to reply – it’s year-end evaluation time for homeschoolers in NYS. I love everything you’ve written and it has given me a lot to chew on. I’ve never really know what to do with that verse. 🙂

  • Reply Mystie April 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    “I can’t MAKE my children Christians, then my part is only to be faithful. It is not about measurable results, it is about what God has asked me to do.”

    That is a great point, Sara!

  • Reply sara April 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    sounds about right to me. 🙂

    • Reply sara April 16, 2012 at 2:54 am

      Brandy,

      I’m totally with you on teaching big concepts and then differentiating later, but can I just get some clarification on the rest? Sometimes it helps me to understand what someone is saying by rephrasing. So – You give your children a Christian education because you are a Christian family and not because a Christian education is what makes a person a Christian. Do I have your meaning?

      I am probably particularly sensitive to this because my heritage is not 100% Christian and my children’s heritage is not either. I take comfort knowing that since it is Christ who saves us and not we ourselves, and because all of creation belongs to Him, He will use whatever he will to call His own to Him. I’ve seen children of faithful Christian parents reject Jesus. And I’ve seen embezzlers and child molesters in positions of leadership in church. And I’ve seen God transform drug addicts and promiscuous women who were not seeking Him at all.

      Where all it gets tricky for me is this, since salvation belongs to God alone, and I can’t MAKE my children Christians, then my part is only to be faithful. It is not about measurable results, it is about what God has asked me to do.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      Sara, I think we are totally on the same page! I agree with Mystie–that last sentence was a slam dunk. 🙂

      When I said that I saw it as a chance to clarify the Gospel, perhaps another way of saying it is that I saw it as a chance to clarify the essentials of orthodoxy. Denying that Christian education is part of the necessary life of a Christian family is *not the same* as denying the Trinity or the virgin birth. I suppose it is both the Gospel and orthodoxy, now that I think about it {not that we separate those two}, but that I want them to eventually know which issues are secondary and which are primary, and also that Jesus saves and not the various things we do in regard to working our faith in our lives.

      All that was a bit of a tangent, I think, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

      I think that Christian education is about discipleship and disciple-making, yes, but all salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. We use the means that God designates, and leave the rest to Him. It is a great mystery, His ways!

      By the way–you mentioned your children’s heritage and your own heritage. Did you know that God calls your children holy because of what He has already done in your life? If we go far enough back in any family, no one has a 100% heritage! My children have non-Christian grandparents, for instance {though we pray for their conversion!}…

  • Reply Pilgrim April 15, 2012 at 2:39 am

    I realize that I have to be careful about what I say about the schools because so many people we know DO send their Christian kids to public schools. I also know that my kids will be interacting with public school kids a lot who have NO other choices for education (inner city kids). I don’t want him to be prideful or get the wrong idea that homeschooling is the ONLY way to go because sometime he might end up in a Christian school and if the grandparents had their way a public school. It is a tricky issue -especially when the friends start going. So sweet that your daughter wanted to respect your wishes!

    • Reply sara April 15, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Pilgrim, I feel the same way. We all do the best we can with what we have out of genuine love and concern for our children. Schooling choices don’t happen in a vacuum. 🙂

      I worry, too, about creating a judgmental spirit in my children – like the Pharisees, washing the outside of the cup.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      Yes, I learned my lesson about over-elevating homeschooling with my firstborn, which is why I mentioned Christian schools to her, even though she didn’t ask. Her friend attends Christian school, and I didn’t want her to jump to that!

      My oldest child has a very judgmental spirit, no matter what I seem to do. My tactic with him is to play Devil’s advocate. It drives him crazy. 🙂

      With that said, I want my children to be people of conviction, but not condemning. Because of that, when they ask a question, I try to start with the underlying principle, and then confront whatever excess follows as it comes.

      Children are like this, I think, naturally. For instance, I was at the park last week, and a little 2yo girl was petting very large dogs and calling them “horsies.” She had learned the idea of horse, but overextended it to mean “large animal.” Her mother kept gently reminding her, “No, that’s not a horse; that’s a dog. Can you say dog?”

      To some extent, I think even big issues like judgmentalism are more akin to the horse issue above, at least before ages 7 or 8. They naturally overextend because they learn by hitting the boundaries and having someone pull them back. So if, next week, she asks me if so-and-so in her Sunday School class isn’t really a Christian because she goes to public school, it’s a chance, in my mind, to remind her of the Gospel. What makes a person a Christian?

      Reformed doctrine places and emphasis on the Christian education of covenant children, and I think that is the correct interpretation of the pertinent passages, but if someone believes otherwise, it doesn’t make them not a Christian because Christians are those who follow Christ and trust in Christ alone for salvation. Does that make sense? That is what I want them to understand by the time they are older. I know it takes awhile for little minds to draw all of the distinctions.

      All of that to say, my personal approach is to start with conviction/principle, and then teach them the boundaries, and part of that is because I think that a lot of childish judgmentalism is more overextension (sometimes very logical) than it is true condemnation in the heart.

    • Reply Pilgrim April 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Thank you for your thoughtful response – I am just now getting back to my computer. I am starting to learn more about reformed doctrine as we get ourselves settled in a new church and am trying to grasp some of the larger implications of covenant theology. I also appreciate the reminder to lay down basic principles/ guidelines and then deal with exceptions later. Sometimes I see the trees and miss the forest and kids don’t need to be bogged down in details. I do agree that they need to have strong convictions and if I believe something strongly then I should pass it along – part of the overflow of my life. I hadn’t thought about overextension like that before and I can see how that being true in kiddos lives.

  • Reply Pam... April 14, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Too funny. It’s awesome when we get the chance to ‘get into their heads’. I love it. I was taking a walk with a friend by a school and she told me her husband calls it a ‘kiddie prison’. Hah! (Now I didn’t say that!)
    You did good in giving her the short answer. I think giving such answers reminds us a few things too. We lose track. Now in both of your minds when you do school, there will be this quiet thought ‘THIS is a Christian school’. Food for thought.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you for the affirmation…and I love that idea, that it is more about defining ourselves as a Christian school than other schools as not Christian. Thanks, Pam!

  • Reply the momma April 14, 2012 at 2:09 am

    So cute! My oldest, age 6, would definitely have the same question. My next child, age 5, just asked this morning when she might go to daycare like her cousin… she just wants to see what it’s like.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 14, 2012 at 1:07 am

    I just realized that if I am ever guilty of hypocrisy, this is the child who will catch me!

  • Reply Daisy April 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I loved this post. LOL. What a cutie!

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