My family is involved in a great classical Christian education project, homeschooling version. Over at First Things, Brian Douglas, who has taught in a classical Christian school, and is a big proponent of the method, writes a really smart list of five temptations classical Christian educators face. Among them:
The second temptation is to believe that academic rigor plus disciplined behavior equals a good education. It is easy for a classical Christian school to become known more for its uniforms, homework expectations, strictness, and the like, than for its gracious, loving environment. Yet we ought not treat education like a simple input-output situation, in which the right learning environment can program our students to be Christians. While students do need high expectations for their work and conduct, focusing on order becomes hazardous when it overtakes the joy of experiencing God’s grace. When this happens, students may learn to jump through the hoops, obey the rules, do the right things, but they do not learn to love God and others. That is moralism, the worst enemy of true Christianity.
Creating a truly gracious classroom is much harder than creating an orderly classroom. It is a challenge that requires spiritual preparation far beyond classroom management techniques. But the only Christian education is a thoroughly gracious education. It sounds so basic, but it remains true: Without God’s grace, we can only produce narcissists who are more focused on their own successes and failures than on the eternal reality of God’s love for his people.
As I’m learning, if you believe putting your kid into this program will make things work for him, you’re missing the point — and you’re bound to be disappointed. You have to get involved yourself. Besides, you never know what you’ll learn. I had missed The Odyssey in my education, until I read it with my son Matt in his program. Not only was I able to discover it for myself, but reading it along with my son was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. When we, together in the Louvre last month, saw a scene from The Odyssey on a Greek cup from Homer’s time, I was overwhelmed by tears, given the journey Matt and I had taken through the epic together.