The two black walnut trees by my barn near the river never fail to catch my attention each time I pass by. True, we have five acres or so of trees of all types around our home, but out of all of them these two are easily the most noticeable. It has nothing to do with their size; they are nowhere near the biggest trees on the property. In fact, the oak tree just 40 feet away towers over them like a redwood over dogwoods.

No, what makes them so noticeable is that, though they are a mere eight feet apart, one stands straight and tall and the other leans over at roughly a 45-degree angle. Mind you, it is not that it was once standing straight and then began to pull out of the ground and tilt from the base. The trunk itself actually bent for some reason and, since no one corrected it when it was young and tender, it simply grew that way from then on. At some point it will end up getting so top-heavy and putting so much strain on the roots that it comes out of the ground entirely and falls.

During the most formative years of its life, no one trained it to stand straight when they saw it starting to go the wrong direction. And each time I see that and think on that fact, I am inevitably reminded of a parallel truth from Scripture. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The end of summer is rapidly approaching, and with it is coming a question that is, in the words of the younger crowd, “so 2020.” With COVID-19 very much still a thing, the entire question of what to do about school is on every parent’s mind. They have children to “train up,” and now may not be quite sure what to do. Most schools simply emptied the last few months of the last school year, and parents were suddenly thrust into the role of being the main educators for their children. The start of this year seems just as uncertain, with some schools not planning to open for in-person learning at all, and others doing a mixture of in-person and online learning.

But one advantage that we have in America, one tremendous blessing that we should never take for granted, is a wide array of choices in this matter. Some may simply opt to continue to utilize the public school system in whatever form it takes, others may choose Christian or other private schools, yet others may choose to fully homeschool.

In Deuteronomy 32:11 God pictured himself as an eagle stirring up the nest for Israel. That picture is an amazing one to consider. When a mother eagle is building her nest for her precious babies, she does not begin with the soft stuff. She actually begins with sticks, thorns, rocks, and other uncomfortable things. She then lines the nest with things like feathers, pine straw, fur, and other soft things producing the comfy nest the baby eaglets so love.

But her goal is not to keep them in the nest forever; her goal is to see them soar into the heavens. And so, as they grow, she begins to remove bits of the “comfy” and brings the “prickly” to the top. In so doing she actually encourages them to fly.

This entire COVID-19 pandemic, and even all of the rest of the 2020 craziness, could well be God’s way of stirring the nest for some and getting them to examine all of the choices available to them.

I am truly grateful for the many fine, godly public school teachers that I personally know, men and women who love the Lord and their students. I am also openly and enthusiastically an advocate for Christian schools and homeschools. I am the product of a Christian school, twelve years worth of it. My own children began their school experience being homeschooled by my wife, and then in later grades moved into two wonderful Christian schools. Having seen Christian schools and homeschools from the inside for many decades, please allow me a moment to sing their praises, and to get you to consider the possibility.

Our homeschool years with our kids were precious years that never fail to make me smile as I think back on them. We traveled, saw the places history was made, and got really close to our kids, and are still close with all of them to this day. My years and their years in Christian school were equally good. They made inseparable friendships. Even though they have all graduated, their teachers still check up on them to see how they are doing. They were well trained in every subject, and are thus far launching pretty successfully into the young adult world of college and business.

Above all, they were in an environment where they could pray openly, say the pledge of allegiance, hear Bible preaching and teaching, and were taught to love God and country.

Moms and dads, you have choices. And I have found that when people pray and seek God’s will on choices this important, not only do they find his will, but they also find that he will make a way. What he will not make is “time for a do over.” Like those black walnut trees, we all get exactly one shot at training up our children, and the only time that can be easily done is while the trunk is tender.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Mooresboro, N.C. He is a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books. He can be reached by email at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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