God blesses parents with children and calls upon those same parents—fathers, particularly—to raise their children in the “paideia” of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). From this task, we become all too easily distracted. As Pastor William Weedon wrote in recent blog post:
Pondering—how Satan is so adept at getting us all worked up, hot and bothered, over the things that finally don’t matter; so that we stay coolly indifferent to the things that finally do. ‘We are not ignorant of his devices.’ Surely majoring in the minors is one such. ‘Lord, help us to love what you command and desire what you promise!’
This point reminds me of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38–42), and is so applicable to many facets of our lives. In particular, I’m thinking about the priority-setting that is so necessary for homeschool parents—especially at this time of year. What to teach, how to teach it, what other activities to participate in? “Etc., etc., etc.,” to quote the King of Siam.
The Devil’s Snare
Most importantly, I note that it is a tool of the devil to make homeschool parents feel guilty that they are not able to teach some academic subjects at the same level that the public schools often can if they have “good” teachers.
I believe homeschool parents should try to break away from the modern public school curriculum models and decide what is truly good, necessary, and edifying for their children to learn, based upon their future goals in life.
We can also easily get so worried and bogged down with teaching academic subjects that are not really that important, or to a level of mastery that is not at all necessary, that we forget to focus on the priorities of teaching theology and the roles of sons and daughters in developing their understanding, learning, and practicing of their respective vocations in a biblical understanding of oikouros—keeping/managing the house (e.g., Titus 2:5).
How many parents wouldn’t think of allowing their child to miss a math lesson, while never even thinking to ensure that at least the primary texts of the Small Catechism have been recited daily according to the injunctions in the same? The Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed—it is these texts that correct us for sin and comfort us with forgiveness in Christ, and that’s a lesson worth remembering above all others. Luther writes (Large Catechism, Preface, 14–15):
And if this were not sufficient to admonish us to read the Catechism daily, yet we should feel sufficiently constrained by the command of God alone, who solemnly enjoins in Deuteronomy 6:6ff that we should always meditate upon His precepts, sitting, walking, standing, lying down, and rising, and have them before our eyes and in our hands as a constant mark and sign. Doubtless He did not so solemnly require and enjoin this without a purpose; but because He knows our danger and need, as well as the constant and furious assaults and temptations of devils, He wishes to warn, equip, and preserve us against them, as with a good armor against their fiery darts and with good medicine against their evil infection and suggestion. Oh, what mad, senseless fools are we that, while we must ever live and dwell among such mighty enemies as the devils are, we nevertheless despise our weapons and defense, and are too lazy to look at or think of them!
Remembering Why We Have a Home
The primary goal of homeschooling should simply follow the biggest advantage of homeschooling: being at home with family, having time for theological discussions, and having the flexibility to teach according to the future goals and needs of each child. With few exceptions, we are raising Christian children to become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. Preparing for the additional vocations found outside the home, while especially important for men, must remain secondary in priority to the teaching of these primary vocations.
As a homeschool father, I have found that the more we try to duplicate the entire curriculum menu of public education, the focus of our lives moved away from the home, church, and family, and into the self-absorbed attitude of simply creating another independent individual for the state.
The same can be said for over-indulgence in extracurricular activities for each child. Parents can easily become bus drivers for independent children who have little time for family meals and edifying family leisure.
Seek Not the World’s “Education,” But God’s “Paideia”
A very interesting Greek word found in Scripture helps me tie this all together into a biblical understanding of how to raise our children. In Ephesians 6:4, St. Paul says: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the paideia of the Lord.”
While our English translations usually render this word as “nurture,” “training,” or “discipline,” there is not really a fully satisfactory English translation of paideia. In founding a charter school in the late 1990s, I did extensive reading and research on various pedagogies. It was during this time that the concept of the Greek paideia became central to my understanding of education for the Christian family.
Paideia involves more than just the curriculum one uses. Paideia includes absolutely everything the child is exposed to in being raised. Certainly the formal aspects of education are part of this, but paideia also includes the culture of the home in which a child learns what it means to live as a family, to be a mom, to be a dad, etc. It includes the external culture the child is exposed to as well—everything from the television shows and movies he is allowed to watch to the extracurricular activities he participates in.
The various times of the day for prayer and devotions are a very important aspect of the paideia of the Lord. I have found that the best way to frame the day is praying the Catechism morning and night the way Luther suggested, concluding with Luther’s morning and evening prayers. In short, paideia includes everything that shapes a person into who he becomes. Central to this is developing a distinctively and thoroughly Christian worldview and family culture.
Where to Find Good Advice?
Probably one of the best works I could recommend on the subject is Werner Jaeger’s Early Christianity and Greek Paideia. Mortimer Adler’s works on paideia can be helpful, too, but he tends to co-opt that term to describe his own particular brand of pedagogy.
Doug Wilson properly describes the concept of paideia in some of his books on education, but again uses it to justify his curriculum. Wilson’s books are very informative, though saturated with a Reformed theology of covenant rather than a Lutheran theology of sacramental Gospel. As an apologetic for his Christian parochial school curriculum, Wilson’s books may overwhelm the humble homeschool parent. Nevertheless, Wilson’s article entitled “The Paideia of God” is quite instructive for those who don’t have the time to read Jaeger.
Setting the Course
So how do we raise a child in the paideia of the Lord? This means much more than simply taking your kids to church on Sundays and enrolling them in seventh and eighth grade catechism classes. It also means that we don’t simply follow the public education model of schooling and extracurricular activities. The danger is that the public education model of curriculum and pedagogy leaves very little time for the paideia of the Lord that I am talking about.
Talk about the things of God—“theology”—with your children constantly, pointing them to Christ who forgives and restores. Be in the world, but not of the world. Make God’s Holy Word the lens through which everything is seen, and let it inform everything you do. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
To sum this all up in one sentence: Raising children in the paideia of the Lord means raising them in such a way that they see and do everything in and through the light of God’s Word—both Law and Gospel.
Erich Heidenreich, D.D.S., a homeschool parent, manages the blog Lutherans and Procreation and serves on the advisory board of the Hausvater Project.
Suggested citation: Heidenreich, Erich. “Raising Children in the Paideia of the Lord.” The Hausvater Project, January 2012. www.hausvater.org.