In J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterful tale The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf accompanies the story’s unlikely hero, Bilbo Baggins, and his dwarf friends on their adventure across the Misty Mountains. As they prepare to enter the forbidding forest of Mirkwood, Gandalf announces that he must leave his friends. Danger awaits them ahead, he assures them, but they will be safe as long as they follow a simple rule: “Stay on the path!”
It strikes me that this is good counsel for us all, parents. We need to stay on the path of classical Christian education to the end. There are plenty of detours and dangers, pandemics and panaceas, temptations and troubles ahead. Our own children will probably want to veer off the path at some point (yes, you should expect your child at some point to see greener grass elsewhere). But in the adventure of raising children toward Christian maturity, our children need the right path, and so do we.
Classical education is predicated on a final destination, an ending point, a vision for where the education is going. The vision for a graduate of a classical Christian school includes love for learning, virtue and mature character, sound reason and sound faith, service to others. Don’t you want those traits to describe your children when they are 17 or 18 and are preparing to enter the larger world?
The Trivium – grammar, logic, and rhetoric – is the road map to arriving at this vision for a graduate. In other words, making the educational journey through the years of grammar school, logic school, and rhetoric school is a voyage toward a final ideal, a great vision for our children to become mature, thinking Christians who know how to learn and who are prepared for a lifetime of faithful service and vocation.
But if we get on the classical path for only a short time, though our children will certainly benefit, they will never gain the long-term, life-shaping benefit of completing the journey. I want my children to make it all the way to the final destination that the classical map shows me, not end up in the middle of the wilderness with the path nowhere to be found.
All of this is to encourage you, parents, to consider the long-term vision of classical Christian education in the lives of your children. The journey is arduous and can be expensive, for sure. The struggles of today are real, and the work is hard. But the undertaking is well worth the effort and expense.
What is your vision for your children? What kind of person do you want them to be? Is classical education just a stopping off point on the path to a different destination?
Providence’s classical Christian education and Christ-centered culture is the best path I know for your children. Let me encourage you to persevere to the end, and then (to mix my metaphors) to anticipate reaping the good fruit of grammar, logic, and rhetoric in the appointed season.
Remember the words of Gandalf at the entrance to the dark paths of Mirkwood: “Stay on the path!”