If what your children do at school matters, then how they live at home ought to matter even more. At Cedar, we want our students to celebrate the continuity in the Lord’s sovereignty and grace in all things, whether that be during a lesson on fractions or while taking out the trash at home. We teach our students that obedience is expected at all times, whether they are on the playground at school or at home with their parents. We train them to see the interconnectedness of God’s creation in literature class and in their own backyards.
If what students do for eight hours on a typical school day bears no consequence to what they do at home, then students will learn to live a double life, clouding their values and loves.
Here are three practical areas of home life – Faith, Screen Time, and Chores – in which you can reinforce classical education at home and communicate to your child that what they do both at school and what they do at home have the same common end: glorifying and enjoying God.
1. Faith: Prioritize Family Worship
How we structure the school day at Cedar reflects our goal to center all that we do around knowing, glorifying, and enjoying the Lord. Thus, we begin each day with an opening ceremony where we sing and pray together, and often recite poetry and Scripture together.
Although theology class often gets the honor of our first school subject of the day, our aim is that every subject and moment of the day be worshipful to the Lord. While transitioning to different classes and waiting in line for the bathroom, we sing his praises. In history, literature, and science, we discuss the truth of Scripture. In mathematics, music, physical education, and art, we marvel at God’s love of order and beauty.
A God-centered life should be true in the life of each student not just at school, but at home. It is the role of parents, predominantly of the father, to shape such a life. In his book A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home, Pastor Jason Helopoulos refers to the Christian parents’ duty of conducting family worship (which has its own blog post here) as “joyful responsibility.” He explains:
Daily family worship provides a continual reminder that we are worshipers of Christ. It has the added benefit of shaping the home around this worship. A family that reads the Bible, prays together, and sings praises to God will begin to have its actions, thoughts, and words shaped by this daily event.
Aim for brief but regular meetings for family worship. Read a passage of the Bible, discuss it, sing a hymn or song, and pray together. Include everyone; have your children read parts of the passage of Scripture, pick out which songs to sing, and participate in prayer. Let this passage from Joshua shape how you consider family worship:
Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14-15).
It is teachers’ and parents’ shared hope that each student at Cedar Classical Academy comes to know Christ as Lord and Savior. While family worship, corporate worship, and time in a classical Christian classroom are no guarantees of this, these habits are some of the graces through which students might come to know and walk with the Lord.
2. Screen Time: Replace Screens with Curiosity-Cultivating Activities
Parents should be aware of the many damaging effects of excessive screen time, and guard their children’s time accordingly. The wider world has a low standard when it comes to guarding children’s time; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of:
- 1 hour a day for your preschooler
- 1.5 hours a day for your Grammar School student
- 2 hours a day for everyone else
For a preschooler, this AAP standard would add up to 7 hours a week, 30 hours a month, or approximately one tenth of their waking life. For an older student, this standard would add up to one eighth of their waking life.
In a Harvard Health article on screen time, Dr. Claire McCarthy writes that “[t]he rapid-fire stimulation of much of what children engage with on entertainment media makes slower-paced activities like playing with toys, painting a picture, or looking at a book less appealing.” Slower-paced activities like these are exactly what teachers at a classical school would most want to hear that their students are doing at home.
Playing imaginatively with dolls and stuffed animals, exploring creepy-crawlies under stones in the backyard, or observing interesting shapes in the clouds are activities that are more likely to direct a child to wonder about God’s creation and simply enjoy it. When I asked Cedar parents about how their children spend their time at home, some responses I received were: exploring nature outside, indoor and outdoor projects, prioritizing reading time over other leisure activities, reading together, encouraging children to read on their own, and letting the children witness adults reading for pleasure.
Dr. McCarthy further states that screen time “interfere[s] with how children learn and practice executive function skills, like delayed gratification, troubleshooting, collaborating, and otherwise navigating life’s challenges.” At Cedar, we hope to cultivate in our students the ability to resist temptations that so often present themselves to us which ultimately do not satisfy. We encourage our students to face challenges with joy and to persevere when things seem too difficult to overcome. Replacing the convenience of sitting your children in front of a screen with the challenge of letting them explore and be present with what is around them will help prepare them for the unknown future challenges in their life.
3. Chores: Expect Obedience to Encourage Self-Government
At Cedar, we expect immediate and joyful obedience (“right away, all the way, every day, with a happy heart”). Rather than stifling students’ ability to think and act for themselves, this expectation trains them to do that well. We keep high standards of obedience so that children can grow to meet them. We hope that they will grow in discernment and self-government, serving and loving those around them. One way we encourage this is to let them take on responsibilities in the classroom, such as distributing workbooks or helping younger students with independent work.
By allowing your children to participate in household chores, they grow in responsibility and self-government. Besides encouraging non-screen time leisure activities, incorporate your children in household tasks as much as possible. Depending on your child’s age, tasks could include: cooking, baking, gardening, sorting laundry, putting toys away, keeping rooms tidy, mowing the lawn, watering plants, taking out the trash, or (a favorite of the preschooler) peeling carrots. These small chores provide opportunities to encourage responsibility in your child, help them build practical skills, and teach them what it takes to maintain a household.
A student’s time at school is just one fraction of his life, and so is his time at home with his family. We want to help grow students who learn to love goodness, truth, and beauty in all aspects of their lives, with the ultimate aim in mind to shape and mold him into a disciple of Christ and citizen of the City of God.