These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deut.6:6-7).
Who children are talking to is of great importance for their upbringing. One of the reasons homeschooling can be of immense value, is that children are removed from the hostile, ungodly environment that characterises many schools, and are able to communicate mostly with their family. That hostile peer-group has gone.
But it is not enough to be removed from a hostile peer-group. Nor should homeschooling parents think, “Well, we’re using a Christian curriculum, so we’ll be right.” A Christian curriculum is good, but that is only an aspect of a child gaining a godly education.
What am I saying?
The above text from Deuteronomy is the key. Children need to be able to talk at home about their behaviour, their faith, their beliefs, and what it means to serve God. Homeschooling is a vital aspect of communicating the faith from one generation to the next. This is not merely a responsibility of the Church; it is a vital component of Christian family life.
Paul referred indirectly to this. He commended Timothy because he [Paul] was “mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well” (II Tim.1:5).
The relevance of the Bible is to all of life. If you have faith in God, let your children know of it. That’s your job as a parent, and it is a vital aspect of their education, according to the Bible. Faith in God is “caught,” but it is also taught.
Tell them of the circumstances of your conversion, and what your faith in God really means to you, today. Speak to them from time to time of how you got to know your spouse, of God’s leading of you both to get married, and the instances of God’s leading you over the subsequent years in business decisions, Church membership, your challenges and crises, and the other aspects of what it has meant for you to walk with the Lord.
You don’t always want to talk about the positive things, either. I made a poor business decision a number of years ago that cost us many thousands. Mistakes are a part of life too, and it is humility to talk of these things. These kinds of conversations help children see and understand the real you, and to know that their parents (like them) are not perfect.
When children are little, your money is of little significance to them, but your time is valuable. I’ve heard it said that good parenting means giving children half as much of your money, and twice as much of your time. That’s good.
In the last 15 months, we have known five Christian people who have died. Some of these have been natural deaths, while others have been awful tragedies. These are occasions when as Christian parents we can explain to children how we do not understand many things, but we seek to grow in our trust in the Lord in the midst of trial and loss. These occasions can be painful of course, but they can also be insightful for children in the long-term, and their faith can grow from these experiences.
There’s something else.
Children need time to talk, as much as they ought to listen to their parents. I don’t believe the notion (purportedly from the Victorian era) that “children should be seen and not heard.” As someone said many years ago, “children are little people.” If we want our children to grow in the faith, than we must be ready to deal with the questions and problems that children (including little ones) will have, in a patient and understanding way. We were children once, too.
If children ask “Why does Daddy put money in the plate on Sunday?” they deserve an answer. They cannot see God, but the money going into the plate for the Lord is very visible. How can the two be connected? If children ask, “How did God put the stars up there?” we need to be able to go to Genesis 1 and explain this.
One of the most vital aspects of a child’s educational growth is when they let the Bible speak to their situation. Now, they are not merely reading the Bible, but applying it to their life as God’s Word to humanity, for all time. We can begin to do this with children, so that they pick up the responsibility themselves, over time. Now, we are really seeing them grow in the faith!
This process of Christian education and talking with our children, can and should go on for a long time. Our three adult sons still have questions and issues in their daily lives that they want to talk to us about. But it all begins with making time to talk and listen to them, as children. If we make the time when they are little, they will probably be still talking to us in their teens, and into adulthood.
And that’s important.