The British monarchy seems to be all the rage. PBS is in season 2 of Victoria. There are two seasons of The Crown* available on Netflix. Many of you men are left to watch the Olympics alone because your wife and daughter would rather binge watch these stories of royalty.
Well, in Season 1, Episode 7 of The Crown, we get a glimpse into the education that Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth received as a young girl. The audience learns, even as she does, that her education is different, drastically different, from that of other pupils. “Shouldn’t I know all of this too?” she asks as she thumbs through a stack of, what does appear to be, Algebra exam papers.
No other child in the entire kingdom received the same kind of training she did, not even her own sister, Margaret.
Why is her education so different? Why is she trained in things nobody else will learn? Quite simply (and obviously), her education is tailored to her status. Her training is different because of who she is and because of what she will be. Nobody else in the kingdom is going to be the queen one day. Nobody else in the kingdom is in a position to become the longest reigning monarch in British history.
In other words, she is treated to an altogether different and tailored and specialized education because her status demands it.
Believing parents, your children should receive an altogether different and tailored education because their status demands it.
The covenant sign of baptism, while not saving anyone, is effectual for the “solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church” (WCF 28.1). Our children, having received that sign, are given a new status; they belong to the visible church and are marked out as separate from the world.
Water dries. It doesn’t stain. It doesn’t leave a mark. You and I may not notice that covenant sign when our kids are getting dressed for school or when they put on their baseball uniform, but it’s there. God sees it. And, truth is, you and I should never forget it, either.
The children of those outside the church are just like everyone else. They aren’t marked out as “engaged to Christ.”
This difference, this status bestows on your child the need for training that is unlike others around you.
Just as Princess Elizabeth was learning to be the Queen of England, so, too, should our children be learning to live as followers of Christ.
Go watch Episode 7 of Season 1 of The Crown on Netflix. At least watch the first 10 minutes or so. Go ahead; I’ll wait.
(I’m humming the Jeopardy tune.)
I mean, really? “During the first course, you should only carry on conversation with the person seated to your right.” Seriously? How old is Elizabeth in that scene? Maybe 10 or so? Just let her go run around and play outside. Make her learn her times tables like everyone else. Let her be a kid, for crying out loud.
She didn’t learn Algebra or Geometry, if we take that episode literally. She probably learned more history that the show lets on. But Biology or Physics? Chemistry? Certainly not. “Most UN-dignified,” according to her tutor.
Some of the things we Christian parents will teach our children or require of them, will sound ridiculous to the people around you. It will be decidedly different, intentionally different, thoughtfully different from “normal” kids. But that’s vital to their training as covenant children.
So, what does this look like?
Well, I’m not here to pronounce blessings and curses on various school choices. For that matter, we’ve done them all: homeschool, classical Christian school, and public school. We haven’t even done the same thing for every child at every level. And this isn’t the place to advocate for one or the other (although, that day may come).
Consider this: What does the Bible want us to learn that my children’s school won’t teach them? Or, better, what does the Bible lay squarely at the feet of parents?
1) The Bible
There’s a lot of talk about the Western world being a post-Christian culture. That’s not true here in Athens, at least, not yet. It’s still socially beneficial to go to church in Athens.
But the Athens City Schools system isn’t going to teach your children the Bible. You can’t actually take that class even as an elective in any school in ACS. Even if they did, that wouldn’t be license to wipe your brow, pronounce a relieving “Whew!” and move on. Sending your child to a Christian school is no excuse either; Deuteronomy 6 instructs parents to teach their children the content of God’s Word.
Prayer is taught. Prayer is better caught. Are you praying with and for your child? Are you modeling a dependence on God and His wisdom and power in His world to accomplish His purposes and plans? Are you teaching your children what to pray and how to pray? Are you showing them the importance of prayer?
3) Doctrine (Catechism)
Every parent, at the time that you bring your child to receive the covenant sign of baptism, vows to teach their children the doctrines of our holy religion. One of the great tools bequeathed to us from the 17th century is the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) is a summary of the 33 central doctrines taught in Scripture. If you’ve asked yourself, “What does the Bible teach about ________?” then you’ve asked a systematic theology question. Scripture, God, Christ, Saving Faith, Marriage and Divorce, Worship, Baptism, The Law of God – all of these and many more are covered in the WCF.
A catechism is just a question and answer format for learning those truths. Written in the 1640’s, the Westminster Shorter Catechism was intended for children under the age of, about, 6th grade. If that’s too difficult at the outset (and, trust me, it will be), find a good Children’s Catechism and get into the habit while they’re young. There are several good ones out there. You can always change to the Shorter when they get older.
But teach your children the truths of Scripture, the doctrines of our holy religion.
I recall a pastor of mine when I was in high school describing his own experience learning the catechism as a child. “Did I believe at that time? No. Was I a Christian yet? No. But when the light came on, the room wasn’t empty.”
Remember your history. Elizabeth wasn’t supposed to be queen. Her father wasn’t supposed to be king. He was the younger brother. Her uncle, Edward, abdicated leaving her father, George, a position for which he had never prepared.
Elizabeth’s future changed that same day. So did her training. The moment she became the heir apparent, the moment her future was set in stone, the moment it became clear that she would one day, some day, who knows when, become the Queen of England, her training changed.
That’s the point of training; it’s preparation for a future reality. Parents, don’t wait until your children can understand or, later still, until they can appreciate the things you are teaching them. Teach them to understand and to appreciate. And one day, some day, who knows when, the truths you have taught them will make Scripture that much clearer, the light that much brighter, their God that much more glorious.
* Parental Guidance: Episode 7 of Season 2 contains explicit content