Dr. John Patrick is a medical doctor, researcher, and professor who speaks often about the decay of Western civilization and the need for thoroughgoing Christian worldview thinking. He recounts his experiences from around the world working with starving children and the transforming effects those experiences had on his own children, who shared the work with him. When you have a held a starving child in your arms as he dies, Dr. Patrick says, you lose interest in the latest fashions at the mall.
Dr. Patrick also describes his children’s education. Each evening over dinner he asked them questions about their classes. But his question was never, What did you make on the test? It was always, What did you learn?
To be interested in your children’s education does not require that you merely want or demand certain grades. Grades and scores have their place, certainly, but what is their place? Are grades and scores the goal? Or are grades and scores the indicators of progress toward the real goal?
Obviously, I am suggesting the latter. Our real goal in classical Christian education is the cultivation of the mind, heart, and soul in wisdom and virtue. It includes the acquisition of knowledge and skills, but it consists in the formation of character and the shaping of a consistent Christian worldview. That takes time, something we seem somehow to have less of than previous generations.
What are your goals for your children’s education? I hope they are ultimately something higher than merely getting a job and making money. But I also hope your immediate goals for your children reach beyond good grades. Encourage your children simply to do their best. Study your children and their habits and desires. You know what their best looks like. Don’t suffer from the blight of low expectations that infects education and childrearing today. If our children simply do their best, if they are reaching their God-given potential by applying themselves diligently and enthusiastically, we can be content, whatever the grade.
If we consistently ask the question, “What did you learn?,” and then if we engage their answer and show them our interest and our own thirst for knowledge, then we can help lead them toward real education. The English word “education,” by the way, comes from a Latin root, “educo,” meaning “to lead forth.”
Toward what goal do you want your children led forth? We are joining together at Regents Academy, parents and teachers together as partners, to lead our children not toward higher test scores, though high test scores tend to be one wonderful side-effect of a classical Christian education. We are leading not merely toward jobs and money and acclaim, though we are thankful for all of these and recognize their place. We are leading our children toward the cultivation of wisdom and virtue, real knowledge and usefulness to God in His kingdom.
So, now you’ve read this article. What did you learn?