It is said that when the school year begins, the life of the family changes. This change is caused by the fact that now the attention of the entire family concentrates on the instruction of covenant children. It is true that after a summer of vacation, the children are wholly taken up with school; but what about their parents? Are they taken up with the education of their children?
By the time this article appears in print, almost three months of the present school season will be completed. That means that this season of covenantal instruction will be one-third finished.
Parents have already received and returned report cards for the first six weeks period and are wondering what kind of marks the second six weeks marking period will bring. The report card serves as an indicator to the parents of the development and rate of development on the part of their child. On report cards there is room for teachers to indicate how well the child is doing not only in specific subjects, but also in understanding concepts, whether he participates, whether he cooperates with other children, whether he shows respect for other students and for his teachers, whether he shows interest, whether he is courteous and honest, and what his general behavior is.
But what about report cards for parents. How well or how poorly are the parents of the covenant seed doing in the education of their children? As we have said, one-third of this school year is almost past. When we watched the doors of the school open for a new season, many of us undoubtedly had thoughts dealing with the responsibility of parents to train their children in the way they should go. We realized then how tremendously important this matter is. We were reminded of our promise and intention “to see these children, when come to the years of discretion, instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your (our) power.” And as Reformed Christians we know this promise is so important that we could not send our children to just any school, but only to one in which the “aforesaid doctrine” is taught.
After these thoughts raced through our mind, did we not then firmly resolve to become more involved with our children’s instruction? What happened to that resolution? How well have we been fulfilling our promise and intention? Is it being maintained? Or has it been forgotten?
What would a report card grading our fulfillment of this promise show? Have we been watching what our children are taught? Have we been helping the teacher by helping our children with their memory work, arithmetic, history, etc.?
Why must we put forth the utmost of effort and power? Is that much necessary when we have our own schools?
To answer these questions we should take a close look at our children. What should we see when we look at our children? What must be our attitude with regard to our children?
First of all, we see totally corrupt sinners. We see those who are worthy only of damnation in hell. Do we find the reason why we should exert so much power in training them in the fact that this training is the way they can be saved from that damnation? No, that is contrary to all of Scripture. The reason for the abundance of this exertion has to be found in something else.
Besides seeing the children of the church as corrupt sinners we also see them as being OUR children, i.e., the children of believers. Scripture teaches that God establishes His covenant in the line of continued generations. Does not that mean that “godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children” (Canons, I-17)? We know then that we and our children belong to God.
If they belong to God, then they are only given to us for a little while. They are given to us not merely to enjoy, but especially to teach God’s covenant and testimony so that they may keep it (Psalm 132:12).
Thus, God puts upon our parental shoulders the responsibility to train up our children in the way they should go. We could do that in our homes, but the State demands that we send our children, to institutions of education. As parents in the covenant, we believe that “to the utmost of our power” means that we establish and maintain Christian schools. When our own efforts and powers are not sufficient, we help or cause our children to be instructed by hiring believing and upright teachers.
Then, after establishing Reformed institutions of instruction and after hiring fellow-saints as teachers, we parents can rub our hands together, saying, “The utmost of our power has now been exerted. We are causing our children to be instructed in the aforesaid doctrine. We have done our duty. The teachers must now use the utmost of their powers, for the responsibility is now all theirs.”
Right? Wrong!!! Nothing could be farther from the truth. Before God, the responsibility is still ours. The utmost of our power must still be exerted. The reason for this is because God’s command always comes to parents, not to teachers, to train up their children. The teacher too must use the utmost of his power and will be responsible for whatever he teaches; but ultimately parents must answer for everything they allow others to teach their children. Therefore we must know not only THAT, but also WHAT our children are taught. We must be sure our children are being taught the truth and all things in the light of that truth.
Now let us get back to the idea of parental report cards. What. would our report cards show? We can get a pretty good idea what our cards would show if we check what kind of mark our children received under “Is courteous,” or what they received under the following categories: “Respects authority; Respects property of others; Respects sacred things.” Are not these marks an indication to us, who are examples to our children, of the grade we would receive under “Shows good time use”? That is true because a child grows gradually and constantly. His growth is not limited to the moments during which we have the time to instruct him. Because his growth is constant, the child (especially the child of the covenant) is always receptive. Our children learn from our entire life, and every waking moment of our life. They are constantly watching and absorbing all that which goes on about them. If our children are courteous and respectful, usually they have learned it from watching their parents. Do they refuse to respect those in authority? If so, it. is true because of the attitudes they learn at home. What is the content of our conversations when the children are around us? Do we deal with every moment of our life as one in which we are teaching the covenant seed? Only then are we exerting the utmost of our power.
Do we have a good grade under “Cooperation”? Is there good rapport between parents and teachers? Is there a complete lack of strained feelings between the parents and the teacher? Do we speak often to our child’s teacher so that there is a constant flow of communication? Do you know of better ways to have communication between the parents and the teachers? As parents are we aware of what is being taught and do we ourselves understand it? If we do not—we should not hesitate to ask the teacher. We MUST know. The teacher will gladly inform us and help us to understand it. They like nothing better than cooperative parents and themselves are very desirous to be cooperative. Do our children know that there is this cooperation? Or are they always trying to pit teachers against parents and especially parents against teachers?
Well, how did you do for the first twelve weeks of the school year? Did you do well; or have many of your well-intentioned plans fallen by the wayside? Let us hurriedly pick them up and do better in the rest of the year. We tell our children to try harder, to put aside their toys and to concentrate on the work at hand. Let us, as parents, do the same thing. As we have so often told our children, the exertion of the utmost of our power will never hurt us. We and our covenant seed will be the better for it. Let us not forget to create an atmosphere which is conducive to their growing as children of the covenant.
The result will be that they will be “piously and religiously educated.” They will “increase and grow up in the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is so that they “may daily follow Him, joyfully bearing their cross and cleave unto Him in true faith, firm hope and ardent love.” Acknowledging God’s fatherly goodness and mercy, they will “live in all righteousness, under our only Teacher, King and High Priest, Jesus Christ; manfully fight against, and overcome sin, the devil and his whole dominion, to the end that they may eternally praise and magnify” God and His “Son Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Ghost, the one only true God.”
What more glorious end can there be? What a most blessed fruit upon our parental labors!!