By Andrew and Katie Dove, Parent
Lord, I want a family that earnestly loves You and loves others well. I desire to train my children in all your ways, in prayer and faith, and that when they are grown they won’t depart from it. This was our prayer when we began our parenting journey thirteen years ago. I wouldn’t say we know less now than when we started, but we have a much deeper appreciation for the challenge and duties of raising children. Back then it seemed ideal and simple. I couldn’t understand why those teenage parents seemed so perplexed? Well, I get it now.
We chose classical education, because it’s the method most closely aligned with our ideas about biblical parenting. Thirteen years into the journey, I am certainly humbler about the practicalities of biblical parenting. We had a saying in law school about students who were over confident regarding exam performance: they don’t know enough to know what they don’t know. The idea was that an over-confident student often didn’t know enough about the subject to understand fully its complexities, nuances, tensions and down-right contradictions. The more you studied a subject, often the less confident you felt – it wasn’t simple at all!
As a Christian, however, this is the best place to be. The way up is down. We understand more fully our complete dependence on God for daily discernment, provision, and blessing. Through our hills and valleys, we’ve learned we’re most effective when we focus on right thinking about our duties and use diligence in forming habits that support those philosophies. Right thinking and right habits has been our mindset. Once we learned a biblical truth, we focused then on habits that would reflect biblical truths as our reality.
Oftentimes the most foundational may become the most neglected. Obedience is the first priority and the framework for a blessed life in service to Christ. J.C. Ryle stated “Obedience is the only reality. It is faith visible, faith acting, and faith incarnate.” As unworthy of the calling as we feel, scripture teaches that the parent-child relationship is the context where this biblical truth is first taught. Accordingly, it follows that we ought to embrace and reflect that truth by living it out with diligence and confidence.
The classical education approach at Providence has encouraged us in this endeavor. I find myself repeating the Providence reminder chant at home: obey right away, all the way, with a good attitude, every day. When on campus, I regularly observe intentional training in obedience. If a child runs down the hallway, the teacher gently asks the child to return to his starting point and walk. My inclination would be to chastise with a verbal “slow down!” The teacher, however, focused on the training opportunity presented. A little extra “practice” likely would have a better impact than reprimand.
In addition to obedience, we desire to cultivate an intentional mindset and behavioral habits with our children in other areas: faith habits (prayer and scripture memory), physical care (self-control), entertainment and study habits, and friendships. Again, Providence places a priority on each of these and assists us in training our children. It exposes them to the beauty and truth of cultivating an intentional lifestyle.
I’m grateful the Lord stirred the hearts and minds of our leaders when He did and for their faithfulness in answering the call. We want the wisdom of a well-ordered day and affections to flow from home life into school life. Hacks and rules won’t get us there. Those are often a lazy short-cut down the road of legalism. Grace, love, truth, and wisdom are gospel-centered. That approach starts with the heart and mind, but it never stops there. It produces habits which over time form a character. It realizes that the way of wisdom, love, and truth are countercultural and expects the road to be difficult. We are thankful to be on this road with teachers, administrators, parents, and many others gazing at the beauty of Christ and teaching our children to do so as well.