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Classical Education Will Not Save Your Children

There is no anxiety quite like homeschool mom anxiety. Can I get an amen?

If you are like me, you are probably busy in the midst of school-year homeschool planning. Those shiny, new plans are so much fun and not yet ruined by reality. As I’m planning, I am confident that this year—this year!—I will get it right. I will choose the proper curriculum and sequence it perfectly. We will finish everything we set out to do, and my children will learn humbly, obediently, and diligently. We will find the perfect curriculum for our two-year-olds, and our teens will ace the SAT and get into the right colleges. We are going to nail it.

We want to know that our children are going to make it. We want to know that they are going to love the right things and pursue the right careers and attend the right churches and vote the right way and marry the right people and have the right and beautiful children in the right time-frame and in the right order. We want to know that they will not suffer or make poor choices or fall away from the faith because we will have done our job so well. We will have classically educated them, and therefore, we will see all of our efforts bear fruit.

It’s a great story. If you like idols, that is.

What we are often looking for in our efforts is some comfort, some control, and some salvation. Homeschooling is not going to save our children. Classical education is not going to save our children. The pursuit of wisdom and virtue is not going to save our children. Even reading the right stories, it pains me to say, is not going to save our children. (Read them fairy tales anyway.)

In our anxiety about our hopes and dreams, not only for what our school year will be, but also for who our children will be and what they will become, we need to remember what does save our children and be sure not to make idols out of the True, Good, and Beautiful things that never will.

If we pursue wisdom and virtue and forget who the author of all wisdom and the source of all virtue is, we will still have missed the mark. This is a frightening place to find ourselves in. Like the souls in the upper levels of Dante’s mountain of Purgatory, we may not be loving the wrong things, but we may excessively love good things. We can seek Christ and miss him if we value the seeking of him more than we value him. If we love the gifts of God and forget to love God, we will be in error. I often am.

We can read all the Shakespeare and memorize all the Shelley and diagram all the sentences and solve all the quadratic equations (ok, well maybe not all of those), and our children will have spent good time feasting on really good things. None of it will matter, though, in making them Christian humans. We can classically educate and raise perfectly good pagans. After all, the Greeks and Romans did. We can raise arrogant adults who think they have arrived because they’ve read the right books and studied the right things. We can raise loyal legalists who care more about the appearances of goodness than about real grace. We can classically educate and still chase the wind.

There are no guaranteed outcomes here. It’s not up to us to make our children good. If we think we can, we are sorely mistaken. However, it is up to us to do a few things.

First, we can remember that we belong to Christ. We are made in the very image of the living God who loves us. We are his beloved, and he is pleased with us. We are his sons and daughters. We aren’t going to earn more favor or love by getting it right, so we can quit trying so hard to do just that.

Second, we can be responsible for the things within our charge and learn to stop clinging to those things that are not. We are not in control of it all, so we can let go of what is beyond us and stop yelling at everyone about everything.

Third, we can step into our authority. My daughter got her first paycheck job this summer. She is lifeguarding at the YMCA pool, and she loves it. She’s a tiny thing—the shortest of all the guards employed there—but when she sits on the stand and enforces the pool rules, people listen to her and obey her. I’ve watched adults push back against her commands, and I’ve watched my girl calmly hold her ground. She has been given authority, and she knows what it is and the bounds of it, and she steps into it and wields it appropriately and justly. We can do the same with the authority we have.

Fourth, we can cultivate our relationships. We can honor our marriages, our children, those to whom we have submitted ourselves to, and our students. We can remember that everyone else is also made in the image of God. We can treat our children and our students with respect, and we can ask forgiveness when we mess up.

Lastly, we can choose well the things we study and teach and consume. We can be discerning in our curriculum and books and media and with our time. We can choose to ignore the educational equivalent of the kids’ menu. We can feed them good things.

Ultimately? It is Christ’s work on the cross, his death, and resurrection that save us; nothing else. It’s up to us to trust in the love and grace of God. To repent. To pray—fervently. To rest in the knowledge of who we are and whose we are. We can educate (and plan!) from that place of assurance and freedom. Amen, indeed.

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