The Goal of Christian Education

Dear Reader,

I’ve been saying for awhile that goals matter. We have goals fir our children, of course. Our curriculum maker also has goals which, even if we are not aware of them, will come through in their materials. It is important to think about where you are headed and how you actually get there.

I was doing my reading for my local Charlotte Mason support group and came across this quote:

“We trouble ourselves about the uses of the young person to society. As for his own use, what he should be in and for himself, why, what matter? Because, say we, if we fit him to earn his living we fit him also to be of service to the world and what better can we do for him personally? We forget that it is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live, -whether it be spoken in the way of some truth of religion, poem, picture, scientific discovery, or literary expression; by these things men live and in all such is the life of the spirit.” (Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education, p. 98)

There is a lot in here and it may not be obvious at first what Charlotte is saying. In this section of her book, she is talking about why we “feed” children ideas, why we use living books and real things. Her point is that these things feed the spirit and that it is the spirit and the things of the spirit that matter.

Too often Christian curricula aim for the wrong things: worldly success, usefulness to society, virtue. These are all good things, but they are not the thing. We make what should be secondary the focus and we end up missing what should be our primary goal.

The question in a Charlotte Mason education is not what will my child be or what will he do or what will he contribute. It is not even how will he serve or how will he be (good, virtuous, honest, kind, etc.). The question is who will he be. Knowledge of God comes before all else. Without it we cannot have virtue and we cannot serve God in a way that pleases Him. So our goal above all must be for the child to know God.

I am not talking here about continual calls to conversion. I do not believe this is how we should treat our children — as sinners always in need of salvation. I believe that the children of believers are holy, that is, they are included in God’s covenant people. We must treat them as believers, and as fellow believers we must disciple them.

If you wanted your child to get to know their grandmother, what would you do? You would find ways for the two of them to connect, in person, over Skype, however you could. Perhaps you would also show them her things — pictures, letters, whatever you might have from her. And when you do get the two of them together, you must step back and let them talk. If you always intervene, then they will not connect with one another.

This is what a Charlotte Mason education is about. Charlotte starts with the assumption that all truth is God’s truth and then she puts that truth before kids and doesn’t get in the way of them connecting with that truth.

What does this mean practically speaking? Above all, pray for your kids, that they will know God. Then show them God. Show them in your own life by praying in front of them and with them and by including them in Bible studies and worship (real worship with all of God’s people, not children’s worship). Let them have relationships with other Christians who are not their peers. Let them hear you discuss the things of God. Put truth before them– in the form of the Bible of course, but also in other ways, wherever truth may be found, in poetry and music and art and science and literature. Be discerning but don’t be afraid of “secular” materials. Don’t moralize. You don’t need to connect the dots for them or to bring a Bible verse into every discussion or every math lesson. If you are doing all the other things, they will have discernment of their own (their consciences are often less blunted than ours) and they will, by the grace of God, get what they need.




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