Maybe you’re like me and have kids spanning a variety of ages. My oldest is 13 and my youngest is 3, with a few kids sprinkled in between. The benefit of having this age span is that we’re not so surprised any more by the antics of a three-year-old. While those around us say, “Wow, she’s really testing her limits!” We nod our heads and say, “Yes, but don’t you remember when so-and-so was three?”
My husband and I agree, it’s not the terrible two’s that get us, but the test-my-limits three’s. And while we’ve seen this before, each child creates their own way to challenge us. Our daughter’s new come back to us when we ask her to stop doing something that she knows she’s not supposed to do is “Well, it’s MY choice.” “Oh, yes it is!” we agree. “But it’s also your choice to get disciplined if you don’t obey us.”
Her words about choice got me thinking. How do we help her grow and create in her deepest being a desire to choose that which is good and right? How do we help her willingly submit to us even when she wants to do something different than what we’re asking? How do we create the woman we envision her to be, one who loves Jesus and is willing in all things for His will to be done? What if she were to say, “Okay, Mom, I really want to do this, but I will obey and stop because you asked”? Well, if she said that right now, after you picked me up off the floor, I would say, “My work here is done.” But we all know that a three-year-old is not going to say that. Because we all understand that when you’re three you still have years of growing and maturing to do.
There are a number of environments, life experiences and training that play a significant role in a child’s life, shaping them and propelling them in one direction or another. The synergy of these held within the loving providence of our gracious God shapes our children and subsequently their choices. A big part of that is the school that a child attends.
Next year this three-year-old will become a preschooler and there is no question where we will send her to school. Like her siblings before her, our wholehearted choice is a classical education at Clapham School. This journey started for our family almost 10 years ago when we enrolled our oldest son at Clapham. Then, we were only armed with a preference for classical education and the anecdotal words of friends, who assured us that this education would grow a love of Christ, a love of learning in our son, and that its structured environment would not at all stifle his energy. And they were right, so right.
This time around, ten years on, we are armed with more. We have our own experience to trust, middle schoolers and lower school students who all love school, children who have become inquisitive about the world and about God. And we also have the Good Soil Study. When presented to us a little over a year ago, we realized that this University of Notre Dame study put on paper the very thing we had envisioned in our mind’s eye for our children and were already beginning to experience. Of course, it is compelling to read about how classically trained students feel prepared for college and outrank in test scores. To be honest, for this mama’s heart, with little souls scattered about my feet, what I was most encouraged to read was how students who experience an excellent classical education are also more likely to hold to the truth of Scripture, to be in fellowship with other believers through church, to have good relationships even with those whom they disagree, and to view their suffering as a part of God’s plan – to name a few. It demonstrated to me that education, whatever the choice, forms not just the mind, but the heart.
When I think again of my three-year-old and ponder who she is now and who she will be, I am hopeful. My hope rests squarely on Christ and His transforming power. And I pray that He will use our efforts – the home life we cultivate, our church body and the school we have chosen for her – to grow her into a woman who lives fully for Jesus, one who joyfully swaps “It’s MY choice” for His will.