“But Mom, why do I have to do school?” my oldest asked on one of those days when she was clearly not in the mood for copywork.
I thought for a second about a meme I had seen where the conversation went as follows:
“Mom, why I have to go to school?”
“So you can go to college.”
“Why do I have to go to college?”
“So you can get a job.”
“Why do I have to get a job?”
“So you can pay for your college bills.”
Obviously, that’s meant to be a funny, oversimplification of the process, but a good point is made and leaves one wondering what the point of education really is.
Homeschooled or not, I suspect this question arises at some point in the mind of every child. Why do we need to do math? Why does Mom make me learn to learn history? Why do I need to be able to write a persuasive essay? What’s the point of doing a chemistry lab?
Typically, the answer has to do with getting a good job and making a good wage. We encourage our kids to self-betterment, self-motivation, self-fulfillment, self-employment, and self-sufficiency. These aren’t bad things necessarily, but is the purpose of education really all about…self?
The Westminster Catechism declares that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Psalm 86; Romans 11:36; Isaiah 60:21; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10: 31; Revelation 4:11; Psalm 16: 5-11; Psalm 144: 15; Luke 2:10; Isaiah 12:2; Philippians 4:4; Revelations 21: 3-4). We glorify God by loving Him and keeping His commandments (John 14:15), the greatest of which is to “…love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 28-31
Education then, is not firstly about how we can better our own life; it’s about how we can be of better service to the Lord and to others. The answer to “Mom, why do I have to do school?” is “To serve the Lord by serving others.“ The goal of education is not firstly to get, but to give.
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40
It’s one thing to understand the purpose of education in theory, but it’s another to make practical application of it. We can tell our children that the point of their education is to serve the Lord by serving others, but are we disconnecting their walk from our talk by clinging to traditional teaching methods that, until they’ve graduated from college and picked up a vocation, really benefit no one?
What if, instead of learning proper penmanship by writing random sentences in a ruled notebook that one ever looks at, we had our children write notes of encouragement to persecuted Christians around the world? I suspect they wouldn’t mind the eraser marks and improper punctuation that are normative for budding writers.
What if, instead of using a pencil to color in parts of a circle, we helped our children learn fractions by having them double a recipe and divide it into tins to distribute throughout the neighborhood?
What if our children took their music lessons seriously, not primarily for a solo performance judged by an adjudicator, but so that they could serve the Lord with their talents during congregational worship, bless the lonely in nursing homes, and accompany singing wherever it is required?
What if reading was more than a tool to increase personal knowledge and pleasure? What if the purpose of learning to read was to share God’s Word with the lost and lonely?
What if our children learned to write a persuasive essay, not merely for a good mark, or an outstanding transcript, but so they could demand justice for the unborn, decry minimum wage entitlement in favor of hard work, and argue in favor of parental rights through a column or letter to the editor of their local newspaper?
What if we taught our children to make a habit of asking themselves, “How can I serve the Lord today by serving others with what I learned?”
The beauty of homeschooling is that it affords the opportunity to meld service and education. One does not have to be taught or lived as a separate entity from the other. Lessons don’t need to be confined to a textbook that gets shoved in a drawer.
Teach your children that they don’t have to wait until they have passed enough tests, are finished high school, graduated from university, and have entered the vocation of their “calling” to start serving the Lord with their gifts; teach them that they are never too young, too inexperienced, or too unlearned to use their education in the service of the Lord…
…and then give them the opportunity to practice just that.