For the Children's Sake ~ Our Philosophy of Educating with Grace

There seems to be a Schaeffer theme threading its way through our story. In 2007, my husband and I spent six weeks at the Swiss L’Abri where we lived, worked and studied with a small group of students from around the world. Our days were divided into work and study. Study took place at the Farel House which was a chalet that served as a library containing many books and lectures on tape. Yes, in fact the first time I heard Tim Keller preaching on marriage was spent listening to a tape of a lecture he had given in the 80’s on marriage. The work portion of our day included gardening, cutting down thorn bushes, making meals in one of the staff chalet’s, vacuuming and ironing clothes in the home of the Schaeffer’s granddaughter, chopping vegetables in Edith’s kitchen, and other ordinary tasks that needed to get done in the L’abri community. Edith, herself, was living nearby up the mountainside from L’Abri, and being cared for by family in her old age and frail health. And finally, the work portion always included a short pause for high tea and biscuits. I had heard of Francis and Edith Schaeffer but had never read any of their books. Lounging in their former living room and perusing books in their sunroom was my first introduction to the Schaeffer family.

~The home of Francis and Edith Schaeffer at L’Abri in Huemoz, Switzerland~

We did not have children at that time, so the topic of education was not something that we thought a lot about when we were starting out together, discovering Scottish islands, German castles, and the romantic streets of France. I was busy learning how to knit my first baby blanket, but I wasn’t quite ready to jump ahead and figure out what kind of education we’d be able to give them.

As our family grew, our personal education philosophies were birthed and began to take shape. We read a slew of books and articles, talked to friends and searched our hearts for how we wanted to shape our own family culture. Our convictions went through many stages of discovery, development, and transformation. Eventually, I came across a book called For The Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School, written by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. Our philosophy of education has been fine-tuned through these early years. As I have read Macaulay’s book, I have embraced it as my own philosophy of education and the model to which I wish to aspire to as we educate our children. For the Children’s Sake is largely based upon the ideas of renowned educator, Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of educating children as born persons using living ideas. Her book does not promote just one place of education, but goes deeper to the foundational aspects that begin within the family, and will underly any good, wholesome, holistic path of education with a Christian worldview.

“When a baby is picked up, spoken to, and loved, he is starting his education as God planned it. For all our lives we are human beings, in an active state of learning, responding, understanding. Education extends to all of life… The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened. He knows that life will not be long enough to follow everything through fully.”

-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School is a book for all Christian parents and teachers whether your children attend a public school, a charter school, a Fine Arts school, a Christian private school, or are homeschooled and the many varieties of wonderful co-ops that exist. This is the wisdom I see in Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. She humbly acknowledges that God doesn’t have the same plan for each family, but that God is so much bigger than our little boxes and labels that we try to fit Him and everyone else into. She sees beyond the methods, and environments available to different families, communities and parts of the world, and gets to the heart of the foundation of education; an education that can be implemented by parents in whatever environment you are in. I know many parents in different educational contexts who naturally implement these ideas already.

Based largely on Charlotte Mason’s ideas, this masterpiece gives both parents and teachers a vision for what education can be, a joy filled journey of learning, discovery, and preparation for life. The Christian truths and practical ideas can be applied in every educational context, and wherever your child’s learning takes place.

The foundations of this living education focus on the child as a born person with a unique personality and a responsibility to serve the child for who he or she is. Respecting and honoring this young human as made in the image of God and allowing the child to play and explore the world around him or her. Teaching habits of virtue, showing children living ideas of the world outside of themselves and that they have a place in time and space in this universe. Giving children the opportunity to learn excellence in music and art, exploring nature and being outdoors. Giving children the opportunity to participate in household chores, and balancing that with creative play and free time, from which the fruit of creativity will ultimately produce their own great works.

“We have to look long and hard at the individual child, our home, school, and outside influences. Just because a home or school is ‘Christian’ does not mean that the child is being properly helped, grounded, educated as a whole person. We accept that nothing is perfect, but we try to get our priorities right. We are ready to take time and trouble to see that our children aren’t swept off in a roaring tide. But we want more than that. We pray for a person who is like the individual mentioned in Psalm 1. He has grown like an ad tree by a stream. Storms may roar, a branch or two may snap, but the oak stands firmly grounded – so much so that small creatures seek shelter therein. There is no one method to achieve such a mature person. There is no perfect or complete situation. We must pray for the individual, pray for wisdom, open our eyes, choose priorities.”

-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

Recently, I have chosen the term “grace-schooling” as our educational philosophy. It leans in full dependence on Christ and His grace to lead, shepherd and sustain us in the choosing of educational methods appropriate for each individual child, each season of our family life, and based on the needs of our children and us as parents. This type of philosophy is not a stagnant, one size fits all, forever and ever, type of philosophy. It sees the family as a team unit. When something is not working for one member of the family, the whole family needs to make adjustments to help that individual so that the whole family can move forward and thrive together as a family unit.

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:26

Grace schooling is fluid, capable of continuously moving forward and transforming if and as the need arises. This is grace, not law. It is freedom to assess your family culture, family size, family limitations and preferences. It is freedom to see a need arise in your family whether it is health, financial, or behavioral and to have the space and willingness to make a change that will move the family forward together, as a team, in the most beneficial way possible. Because of this, For the Children’s Sake is a vision of consistency in the underlying principles of what we want our children’s education to look like even though we may have to change the method from time to time.

Some families may never need to make a change. For some, it may mean choosing to homeschool one or more children. For some, it may mean, putting the children into a good public school and getting involved as a parent there. For some, your unique situation might mean finding a Christian private school or a Fine Arts school where drama and music are a main focus, and for some it may mean finding a special needs school that will more strongly support your special needs child. For others, like us, it may mean a mix, according to the various unique needs that are present in your family at the time. No one can make this decision for you, and no one has the right to judge your decision. As a Christian, you have the Lord to watch over your coming and going, who sees your needs, cares more deeply for your family than anyone else could, and who has promised to be your Provider, your Comforter, and your Covenant-keeping Father.

As a new school year begins, may you find that His grace is sufficient for you in the path He has led you to and may you hold it lightly with open hands for He may yet change it and lead you in a different direction, and yet the foundation will remain the same. You’ve been given a task to raise children to follow God, and it is for their sakes that you lay an unchanging foundation that will be the constancy in the midst of unknowns and variables in the future. Pray, research, study, and then lay your decisions at the Lord’s feet asking Him to open and close doors as He sees fit, for His glory, purpose, and for the children’s sake.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message