At a recent conference, someone posed an interesting question related to using wisdom in homeschooling. “Should I be focusing so much energy teaching my child algebra when I need to teach him to serve?” I think this question goes to the heart of Christian homeschooling.
My wife and I started homeschooling because we want to have God’s words in our hearts and “teach them diligently” to our children (Deuteronomy 6:5–6). But so much of homeschooling has to do with math, science, and other subjects. At times we do feel like we’re teaching our children about God through these subjects, like when we’re refuting evolution, but at other times training our children to be servants of the Lord doesn’t seem central.
Does Christian homeschooling allow for in-depth study of algebra?
Proverbs 8 is a critical chapter in constructing our Christian philosophy of education. In it, wisdom, personified as a woman, calls to young people and urges them to listen to her so she can equip them to make sound judgments. With our focus on developing children for adulthood, we should give careful attention to this chapter.
What is wisdom?
Before we can apply this chapter, we need a clear understanding of who this woman is who’s calling to our children. What is the wisdom of Proverbs 8?
First, God created this wisdom before He created the world: “When there were no depths, [wisdom] was brought forth” (8:24). God made this wisdom, so it is something distinct from His eternal attribute of wisdom. While it is distinct, God delighted in it and used it to frame the world and to establish order.
Second, this wisdom is available all across the world. It is by wisdom that “all the judges of the earth [rule]” (8:16). This means that rulers from Asia to the Americas had access to wisdom even before the special revelation of God was available to them. That’s why wisdom’s call is universal and goes out to all youth everywhere. They all have access to it.
God used wisdom to create the universe, and He integrated its principles into the created order. We can call this wisdom “creational norms,” the principles God embedded in the creational order. And if we learn them, we can use them to live well.
As Christian parents, we can use the principles of Proverbs 8 in a least three ways:
1. Study creation
Teaching our children principles of algebra and physics is not incompatible with teaching them the “things of God.” As we study God’s good creation and apply it, we are learning from God’s general revelation.
We should not put algebra and serving God at odds with each other. They go hand in hand. For example, the good Samaritan had learned the best medical practices of his time. When he had the opportunity, he used that knowledge of creational norms to serve. If he hadn’t learned those principles, he would have been severely limited in how he could serve.
We should make learning creational norms in math, science, history, and language arts an important part of our homeschooling. Because creational norms are more valuable than “choice gold” (8:10).
2. Listen to authority
At their best, our children are “simple,” and at their worst they are “fools” (8:5). Wisdom’s words then are, “Hearken unto me” and “Hear instruction, and be wise” (8:32–33). If children are going to heed wisdom’s call, they must forsake their own way and listen to their authorities.
As parents, we can set the example of listening. We can listen to more experienced homeschool parents. We can learn about best practices for teaching children. Whenever we learn principles about how life works best in God’s world, we are learning creational norms. And we’re setting an example for our children.
3. Resist evil influence
There’s nothing “perverse” about God’s wisdom (8:8). In contrast, secular experts discovering and teaching creational norms often twist them to suit their own worldview. They teach evolution, for example, so they can pretend they’re free from God.
Wherever we gain wisdom from general revelation, we need Scripture to guide, correct, and straighten out what has been twisted by the wicked.
At the end of Proverbs 8 we see wisdom standing at the city gates urging children and teens to listen to her. Her teaching through creation is more valuable than precious metals. “For whoso findeth [her] findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (8:35).
Fools try to live life as though creation doesn’t teach. Perhaps they’re spendthrifts, or maybe they don’t think they need to plow in the winter. Then they find trouble.
So, as we seek to diligently teach our children the ways of God, let’s not forget His teaching through His creation because those who find wisdom find life.