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Parental Involvement in Christian Education

For many parents, sending the children off to school is a great relief. This may be especially true for the mothers who labor all day at home caring for and nurturing the children. It may be a relief for both parents to know that the teacher reveals God in the classroom as he teaches from the “most elegant book” of creation (Belgic Confession article 2), and that Christian behavior is expected and nurtured.

Certainly, parents thank God for the peace of mind knowing that their children receive a Christian education, but let’s go a bit further. It may be a comfort for both parents when they can send their children to a school knowing the children are taught the Bible lessons that they neglected to teach. Now father feels that he does not have to be so diligent with family devotions. Now the school can guide their children in the way God would have them go. Now father can relax and watch TV in the evenings because his children have been taught at school. Mother can direct her attention to a career or do something for herself. The teacher can do the educating. That is what he is paid to do. If the children don’t learn and begin to sow wild oats, then the teacher is to blame.

It is wrong and devastating to Christian education when parents send their children off to school with the attitude that now their hands have been freed from educational responsibilities. It is wrong to think that you can pay money to have someone else take over your responsibility to instruct your children. God clearly reveals to parents, that the father must “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). And again 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.” The Catechism in Lord’s Day 38 also teaches that the fourth commandment involves maintaining Christian schools. Parents must be integrally involved in the upbringing, educating and nurturing of their children.

Perhaps you say, “I will be diligent to teach my child the fear of the Lord, but it is not my job to teach them math and language. My role in training up my child is as the Baptism Formula states: to ‘see these children … instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power.’ Article 21 of the Church Order states that the parents have their children instructed in good Christian schools. All I need to know is that my children are in a good Christian school. When they are off to school, I can focus on my own work. My job of instructing the children is finished for the day.”

Certainly, the involvement of parents in education begins with the financial support of the school, but it must go much further. Parents must be busy instructing their children at home. Christian education will quickly fail where parents neglect spiritual instruction and expect the school to provide all the instruction of their children. Christian education will quickly fail if parents do not provide a strong covenant home life and expect the school to fix all the problems their children have as a result of their neglect. The parents must extend their lives into the classroom by sending children with the spiritual tools necessary for receiving a Christian education. There is no way around this plain teaching of Scripture quoted earlier.

Involvement of parents in education must also continue the moment that the children return from school. It is essential for Christian education that at least one parent be home when the children come home. In fact, the parents should be waiting and ready for them, not busy working on something else. Parents need to understand that their primary job and calling in life is to train up their children. Be ready to listen to your children tell about their day. Just as you reached into the classroom at the beginning of the day by preparing the children for it, you reach in again at the end to provide a seamless transition to home life. Talk with them about their social interaction with classmates, look over their work, be ready to begin helping them with homework. Have the meal prepared as much as possible so you can devote yourself to them. The lives of your children, after all is your chief calling, it is not the house, the clothing, the yard, or any other job.

The time when children return home is prime educational time because that is when the parents can become intimately involved with the education received at school. Think of it like this: the teacher has worked all day in harmony with your goals to teach the things necessary for daily life. Your children, as tender young trees, have been loaded with essential minerals that you as a parent may have a very difficult time providing yourself. The parent now has the great responsibility to take these precious resources, help the children absorb them, confirm their importance, water them with sound spiritual guidance, and further guide the rapid growth. If the parents are not interested in what they learned, then the children will think that it is not important and not worth learning. If you give over your child’s prime educational time to the television, you give it to the powerful influence of the ungodly world. The spiritual substance of their education will be washed away, and the rest will produce wild errant growth. The day’s education will have been wasted.

Whenever possible, become involved with the education of your children even while they are at school. The mother whose youngest child has now gone to school should not fill her empty day with a secular job, but rather should see if there is some time that could be spent directly at school helping the teacher. Freely offer your time. Offer some suggestions and do not give up if your offer is not accepted right away. Both parents should be ready and prepare for parent/teacher conferences. Fathers must be present. It is especially his calling to educate, and he must take every opportunity possible to get involve.

When parents truly understand their calling to train up their children in the fear of the Lord, they will not feel relieved of their duties when they send them off to school. If anything, the feeling of responsibility should be heightened. The progress of their children in academics, their spiritual development in relation to what they learn, their behavior toward the teacher and other students should weigh upon the hearts of parents. When children are in school, their development is being pushed to new levels. The parents must feel a great urgency to keep up with them and carefully monitor their progress. If parents are not involved, then our education ceases to be biblical. ❖