Raising a child with special needs has forced me to stop and consider things I would have otherwise taken for granted. With our first two kids, I gave as much thought to developmental steps as I gave to how the sun would rise the next day. I didn’t know how it would happen but I never doubted that it would. And when we passed a milestone my response was similar: “Oh cool… now what are we going to eat.” Sylas is different, especially in regard to his education. 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve navigated through questions from how we should teach him, to what he should learn, and finally down to the questions about why. Questions that are relevant for all my kids, but I realized I’d never considered or answered them. I’d like to share three questions with you, along with my “working answer” and a bit of my reasoning. I don’t intend to be comprehensive in my answers. My hope is to expedite your mind and heart through the shallow waters of how and what and into a few foundational questions I believe all parents, and especially Christian parents, must consider.

Why am I educating my child?

Perhaps this seems like a silly and impractical question. “Obviously every child should be educated!” I don’t mean to imply that we should consider not educating children, rather, I had never considered the ultimate end or goal of that education. Perhaps if I had been pressed I might have answered: to finish homework, advance grades, get into college, and then get a good job.

But viewing this question through the lens of my son, Sylas, made me realize that getting into college, for instance, maybe a perfectly fine outcome… but it can’t possibly be THE ultimate goal. Is the big hope for my children that they will move out, get a “good job”, or make good money? If that’s the framework then Sylas is set up for failure. The education of my children must serve the ultimate goal that God has for their lives.  

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20.

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11.

Here, then, is my working answer to this question: To teach them to love, glorify, and enjoy God and His ways in all their life. Matthew Henry says that God was pleased to twist together His glory and our true happiness in such a way that when we seek His glory we seek what is truly in our best interest. Math isn’t just about passing an algebra test. It’s about learning to love the order and structure God has embedded in all creation. History isn’t just about a college entrance exam. It’s about marveling at what God’s done and learning the benefits of righteous actions. English isn’t just about getting a high-paying job. It’s about learning ways to express the truth and worship of God. The ultimate end of everything is always the glory of something. What will our children’s education glorify?

What is the basis for educating my child?

This, again, may seem like a silly question. “Of course, we base education on truth, in the facts.” Theology was once considered the “queen of the sciences”. All other sciences flowed from its fountainhead. Somewhere along the way, we began to believe that we could have education apart from what we believe about God. But this isn’t the case because what we believe about the Creator (or that there isn’t one) changes how we view the creation.

If the world is random then how can we know anything? Even if a science experiment works the same one hundred times in a row, if the world is random rather than ordered, then how can we say it will definitively work the hundred and first time? By what standard are we determining the truth of these “facts”? 

in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7

There is no knowledge apart from God… only inconsistent knowers. Therefore, my working answer to this question is this: Only an education that is based on God’s Word can truly educate someone in God’s world. This must include a knowledge of God’s Word but it can’t stop there. We cannot merely teach a Biblical view of creation and not a Biblical view of all the arts and sciences. God’s Word is the foundation for all these subjects and has something to say about them.

Who is responsible for educating my child?

I would imagine that most Christian parents would affirm, in principle, that they are responsible for educating their children. Like most things, however, practically speaking we outsource the responsibility to someone else. We know little about what or how they are being taught, only whether or not they’ve passed. But who will be held accountable by God for our children’s education? Parents will, specifically fathers.

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice. Genesis 18:19.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.  Deuteronomy 6:6–7.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4.

I don’t believe this means fathers, or even parents, must be the only teachers. It does mean that I am ultimately responsible for what my children do or do not learn and for the ultimate goal of that learning. I cannot blame someone else for teaching them falsely without placing myself in the hot seat for whether or not I corrected that false teaching. My working answer is simple: I am principally, practically, and morally responsible for educating my children.

Final Thoughts

Some may wonder whether my questions are critical of public education. That’s understandable, especially in light of the fact that my kids are no longer in public school. I do not mean to call into question the hearts and intentions of many Christians who work tirelessly as educators because of their love for children and their desire to be a light in a dark place. I would want them to consider how or whether they can promote these ends in that context. 

On the other side, we should not be so foolish as to think that just because our children are not in public education, we have solved the problem. Homeschooling and Christian schools often become public education with a bit of Jesus sprinkled in (and without unwanted posters). That is insufficient and often times worse (Matt. 23:15). Christians must, by God’s grace, move beyond the shallow waters, seeking to answer the more foundational questions and be willing to change accordingly.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, 

and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. 

So even to old age and gray hairs, 

O God, do not forsake me, 

until I proclaim your might to another generation, 

your power to all those to come.  

Psalm 71:17–18.