When I was growing up, I remember hearing about how some acquaintances of ours had decided to do "unschooling." Replete with the wisdom of modern educational philosophies, they let their kids choose their own curriculum start to finish, which turned out to involve things like horseback riding between 12:00PM - 2:00PM -- and then not much else.
My 12-year-old self was agape. Flummoxed. Nonplussed. (And probably a little envious.)
When there are no fixed standards in play for education, you can get a whole lot of interesting results, all of them (of course!) equally valid. Biff is a math whiz and publishes a paper on neutrino detection by the time he is nine years old (nice job, Biff), whereas Tuppy likes to get up at 10AM, play video games till four, and then kick around some blocks till dinner ("I love how hands-on Tuppy is!" says his mother). Some kids like to go to class and work hard, others prefer SnapChat Mondays. It's all a beautiful matter of personal choice. Our precious children are learning about what they love.
One of the crucial things for us to understand as parents and educators is that this kind of relativistic educational philosophy is no surprise at all if we don't have anywhere to hang our hat. If we can't point to a universal standard that says, "Here, not there; this, not that," then why shouldn't our kids do what they want? We can say that they'll have a miserable life if they don't work hard -- but what about (says Tuppy) the miserable life I'm having right now by doing all this dumb homework? What about the students' feelings? Who died and crowned my daddy's educational views king?
This may seem far-fetched, but given current educational trends and philosophies, it isn't far off. And even the best-raised kids like to intellectually gripe, and someday they will be asking questions about why all this rigor is really necessary? When they do, will they have a standard of excellence and a standard of beauty to point to in answer to their questions?
The Bible has many principles and few methods, and so we shouldn't thwack our kiddies on the mazzard with it and tell them to get to work. But we should always teach our children, gently and joyfully, that Scripture shows us rich, gospel life in full color -- and that kind of life is replete with hard work, sacrifice, stamina, and eyes trained to see God's grace and beauty. Not a life you can get to by steering a nifty joystick.
Grace and Peace, Nate Ahern