On Friday, May 16th, Sycamore Covenant Academy (SCA) held its annual Silent Auction & Fundraising Banquet. Over eighty students, parents, grandparents and friends gathered for a delicious dinner prepared by mothers and served by the students. The evening was punctuated with the fun of making bids on products and services donated by local businesses and even some of the students. We enjoyed the beautiful harmonized singing throughout the night of those who had trained in Mrs. Swinehart’s Vocal Skills Class. To remind each other of our vision in our children’s education, I gave the following address.
As I speak for a few minutes tonight on the subject I was asked to address, that of Biblical Education, please understand what I mean. By Biblical Education we are not referring to studying the Bible, such as taking classes about the Bible like Bill VanDoodwaard’s New Testament class has done. Rather, we mean pursing the education of our children as God would encourage us to do so in His Word.
In that light, I want to show you a cover picture of home school catalog that will both highlight a precious truth and illustrate a dilemma I face as I speak on this topic. It will highlight a precious truth. Note the title explains the message of the picture: “Education in the Shadow of the Cross.” What’s being communicated by this picture is something with which I wholeheartedly agree. In an age when public schools have banned the teaching of Christianity from them, home schooling families can show how the redemption of the cross, the kingdom of God, is to touch on all aspects of our children’s education. Home schooling helps fulfill the command of Deuteronomy to teach the Word of God diligently to our sons throughout the day.
With our freedoms ever threatened, we do need not only to highlight but declare and defend the right of home education. I defend vigorously from the Scriptures the parents’ God-given right to oversee their child’s education throughout his or her life. I believe families who choose to educate their children at home all the way though high school should be free to do so. I love the heritage that homeschoolers have, embodied on such things as the T-shirts with the faces of Mt. Rushmore that ask the question “What do these presidents all have in common?” followed by the answer “They were all homeschooled.” As one who has overseen the home education of my own children for the past 15 years, who would be counted among the estimated 1.3 million children home educated last year, I am a homeschooling advocate and proponent. As a ministry of the Sycamore RP Church founded six years ago, SCA’s purpose is to supplement and complement the education taking place in home school families.
Yet let me further qualify these statements as I continue to speak to the subject of Biblical Education, for it will lead to the dilemma also illustrated by this picture. In the Reformed Faith, we talk about our core beliefs by using the word Sola. Sola is a Latin word meaning “alone” or “only.” So we believe in Sola Scriptura, or the Scriptures Alone, meaning the Bible alone is the only infallible authority for our faith and life. We believe in Solus Christus, or Christ Alone, for He is the only way of salvation. Or we speak of Sola Fide, “by faith alone,” which means it is by belief in Christ and not by our works that we are justified. Note that the Solas have to be explained carefully to be understood properly. Sola Fide does not mean good works are not present in salvation; rather, good works are a result or product of our salvation instead of the grounds of it.
In light of the purpose for being here tonight, and the topic of “Biblical Education” given me to address, I am going to declare a sola that I do not believe in. This non-sola may be a bit provocative though that is not my purpose, and will have to be explained. I do not believe in what would be called in the Latin Sola Domi Academia, or to use a form of “Pig Latin” so we can all understand Sola Homeschoola. I do not believe that Biblical education is achieved by homeschool alone.
There are those voices in the movement who view home schooling as an exclusive social club. Some would openly advocate Sola Homeschoola, that the only Biblical way to educate is for the parents alone to do it, or would at least speak condescendingly about families who choose to send their children into other venues of education. To be honest, we have had more criticisms about SCA within the home schooling community than from the public school one. Some have indicated that by offering SCA we have abandoned the purity of home schooling.
I believe that this criticism comes because of a failure to see an important element in Biblical education – my topic tonight – by many home educators. This missing belief is the dilemma illustrated by this picture. It seems that something is missing in the picture’s interpretation given by the title, and if I am overreaching at least I am right in saying that something is often missing in the home schooling community’s thinking about education. It can cause even the best home schoolers to fall short of a truly Biblical Education. For let me ask you a question: Where is the shadow of the cross coming from?
You can see that it is from a steeple. The shadow of the cross comes from the church.
You see, the education of our children that the Bible promotes is a parent-controlled and church-nurtured education. For the Biblical support I would offer for this statement, we need go no further than the one story preserved in Scripture from our Savior’s childhood.
Recall at the age of 12 Jesus was taken by His parents Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. This was a common practice among the Jewish youth to prepare them for participating in the Passover the following year. They would be brought before the elders and teachers of Israel and questioned about their faith. Alfred Edersheim tells us in his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah that if the priests and elders determined the child showed sufficient maturity and understanding of the faith, he would become a “bar mitzvah,” which means “a son of the commandment.” Bar Mitzvah was not originally just a birthday party for a Jewish adolescent, but a rite in which the youth took upon himself a greater responsibility for his life before God.
Recall from the story that on their way home, Jesus’ earthly parents realized He was not with them. After they found him, what question did He raise? “Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house?” Jesus was coming of age and was maturing into one who had to obey and participate in the life of the synagogue. Not only because his parents had taught Him to do so, but because He believed from the heart that this was now His responsibility. Jesus’ soul grew into this sense of responsibility, for He was “increasing in wisdom and knowledge, and in favor with God and men.” Incredibly, the Son of God so humbled Himself in the incarnation that He even grew into the sense of His spiritual position and responsibility.
Afterwards, Jesus returned home with them and continued to submit himself to them. His teenage and young adult years were not ones of independency from parents, but an even greater willing submission to them as His responsibilities to the community of faith were expanded. Both His parents and He could no longer see Jesus as one chiefly identified as a member of his carpenter father Joseph’s house. His chief identity was now one who was fully engaged in the work of his heavenly Father’s house. “Did you now know I had to be about My (heavenly) Father’s business?”
This occurrence at the age of 12-13 in Jesus’ life matches the timing of the maturing process we see physically in our own children. You parents understand that feeling. One day they are little kids always wanting to sit on your laps and do everything with you; it seems you turn around once and now sitting on your lap no longer has the appeal it once did. I have seen it at SCA. Some of these young people started this year as kids. Then, overnight the boy’s voices seem to be going down an octave (and occasionally up two!), and those giggling girls, suffice to say, have become young women – who still giggle. The physical changes you are seeing in your children is a God-given sign of the work He desires to do in their hearts. In the classical system of education defined by the Trivium, it signaled the movement from the grammar stage to the logic and then quickly on to the rhetorical stage. In other words, the movement from the rote learning of a younger child, to the place where they start using their learning and asking questions, then on to learning how to articulate and defend their knowledge and faith. Parents and friends, this physical change is a God-given sign to you about their spiritual development as well. Your child is to be moving from his or her sole identity being a son or daughter of your house to being known as a son or daughter of the King. “Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house?”
That is what SCA is designed to help you help them to do. We exist to encourage the important balance of parent-controlled and church-supported (rather than government-mandated) education. Our goal is yours – that your children will be well-grounded disciples of Christ, able to walk in faith in all areas of life. As a father, I know it is difficult to learn to let them go, not into the teenage rebellion so common around us, but even into a life of learning from others, working with others, going on mission trips, etc., where their lives start saying to us, “Mom, Dad, did you not know I had to be about my Father’s business?” So whether it is the youth of our congregation or the congregation to which you belong, please know we are working and praying with you that they will be equipped as servants who show the power of that cross symbolized in this picture.