Excellence is a word that is thrown around quite readily these days. Yet, like so many other words in our vocabulary, it has lost much of its punch because of the all-too-many counterfeits posing as the real thing. Likewise, there are too many examples in daily life which constitute assaults on excellence. Just visit your local mall and you will discover how difficult it is to find someone who works at a store, let alone someone to help you. And then there are those instances when you call into your insurance company, bank, or technical support plan, and the "helpful" automated voice operator directs you to punch a series of numbers on your phone, which often ends up at a dead end or a prompt that alerts you that the mailbox you wish to reach is full! Whatever happened to customer service?
One need not look too far from the pages of the Bible to discover that, rather than living out the idea that those who wish to be great should serve others, our culture has deteriorated into a mindset that seeks to get the greatest possible gain from the least amount of (and often slipshod) effort. Whatever happened to doing all things excellently as unto the Lord?
Proverbs 22:29 reads: You see a man skilful at his work? He shall enter the service of kings, not the service of obscure men.
The word skilful can also be translated as diligent. In other words, those who do what they are supposed to do, the way it is supposed to be done, and do so to the best of their abilities, are those who will be rewarded with the greatest opportunities.
Homeschooling parents have the utmost occasion and context to make this concept a hallmark of their children's education. It is not that Christian schools can't emphasize excellence; they most certainly can and in many cases do. However, the one-on-one attention a parent/teacher can direct to her students, not only enables excellence to be stressed, but also to be attained. This close-up and personal concentration allows for the biblical standard of excellence to be applied without the constraints of a regular classroom setting.
Just because the current humanistic, academic models say that 70% of something constitutes a passing grade is no reason for a homeschool to accept such a sub-standard. Does anyone reading this really want to be operated on by a surgeon who only learned 70% of what was being taught while in medical school or during his internship? When the emphasis is not serving before kings, then how good, good enough is becomes a currency that can be inflated and devalued. A good, biblical answer is in order: As unto the Lord.
Rather than codify what this means in every imaginable situation, I will give you an example from my own experience. I've always asked my students (my own children and others I've tutored or taught) to present me with only their best work. How did I define best work? Simply put, I instructed them to submit an assignment that they had worked and re-worked until they felt there was nothing more that they could add or delete to improve it. Anything less, wasn't their best work. If our standard is 100% in all we do, any grade we get that is less than what we want will reflect areas needing improvement, rather than be evidence of half-hearted, apathetic efforts.
Proverbs 22:29 speaks of earthly kings and people of influence. But, lest we forget, our primary audience in all we do, think, and say is the Triune God of Scripture, in whose presence we all will stand for judgment.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Eccles. 12:14)
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].