"God will not ask you whether you taught your children French, German or Italian or the politics of society life – but you will not escape divine reprobation for not having instilled goodness into them. I speak plainly but I tell the truth: if your children are bad, your grandchildren will be worse & the evil will thus increase & the root of all this is our thoroughly bad education."
— St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
Some people have accused me of sheltering my children too much. My children do not have cell phones, they watch very little TV, and they have always been homeschooled.
Every morning, our entire family prays morning prayers, reads Scripture, and reads lives of the saints. Every evening, we pray together before bed. We participate in the liturgy every Sunday, in its entirety. The children are not allowed to arrive late.
"This is too strict," people say. "You aren't preparing your children to live in the real world!"
Of course, every room contains as many opinions as it does people. So to answer this question, let us go to Christ and the Saints. If God Himself were to raise a child, how would He do it?
Today we celebrate the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. We remember the time when Saints Joachim and Anna brought their three year old daughter - Mary - to the temple, so that she could be raised there. This resembles what had happened a thousand years earlier, when St. Hannah brought the young prophet Samuel — also at age three — to be raised in the temple.
Mary would eventually become the Mother of God, and would give birth to the Lord Jesus Christ. To prepare her for this great task, God provided a blessed environment for Mary, so that she could be raised as a holy woman.
It was necessary for Mary to live in the real world. But it was not necessary for her to be corrupted by it.
- God prepared Mary to patiently bear insults, when people falsely accused her of being an adulteress.
- God prepared Mary to patiently bear persecution, when King Herod sought to murder her Son, and they had to flee into Egypt.
- God prepared Mary to patiently bear suffering, as she witnessed the brutal execution of her Son on the cross.
God did not prepare Mary to fit in with the world, but He did prepare her to live in it virtuously.
And how did God prepare Mary for such a life? Not with entertainment, games, and a life of ease. And not with godless, secular schools.
Mary did not need the latest toys, she did not need admission to a university, and she did not need to be popular with her peers.
What Mary needed was instruction in righteousness, a love for work, and opportunities to pray and to worship God daily — every morning and evening. This is the preparation a child needs, in order to live as a Christian in the real world.
According to an early Church tradition, she prayed early in the morning, until 9:00. From 9:00 to 3:00pm she diligently worked at weaving. At 3:00pm she would have something to eat. After this, she would devote herself to prayer. She diligently studied the Holy Scriptures, and always sought to please the Lord.
This is not a godless education, received from some secular school. This is the greatest example of Christian schooling, for it is a holy education, received in the very house of God.
Because of this fantastic education, Mary memorized large portions of Holy Scripture. In the Gospel of Luke, when Mary prays her famous Magnificat prayer, she frequently imitates Hannah's prayer from the Old Testament. She was able to do this, because she was so familiar with Holy Scripture.
Jesus said, "A tree is known by its fruit." So if you want to compare different forms of education, simply consider the fruit.
If you take a generation of children and raise them with godless music, with godless television shows, without daily prayer, without studying Scripture, spending half their days in secular schools where Jesus is not honored, then what are the fruits? The fruits can be seen in the godless world which surrounds you today, for most of it is being run by people who received just such a godless education.
What do you want for your children? You decide. Do you want your children to receive a godless education, designed by those who do not love the Lord? Or do you want to follow the example God has given us, providing our children with an education like Mary received?
Shall we fill our children's lives with entertainment? Shall we force them to spend most of their time preparing for careers that earn lots of money? Or shall we fill their lives with prayer, Holy Scripture, and daily worship of the living God?
— As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. —
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos — Friday, December 4, 2020
Fr. Joseph Gleason
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