How should we educate our children? There simply isn't one answer to this question for followers of Jesus. Yet there are principles which can help guide and inform our decisions for our families. The following are just a few principles to lovingly engage around as we educate our children.
First Principle: The holistic education is the responsibility of parents and a duty which centers in imparting our faith to the next generation. Education, from a biblical persepctive, must include the teaching of the gospel to our kids – Deuteronomy 6:4-6, Ephesians 6:1-4.
Second Principle: Education is a shaping of the whole person into the image of Christ and enabling them to see life through the gospel and contribute to the world with skill and wisdom.
- Education is not simply job prep or about making money
- Education is a shaping of the soul in conformity to the Word of God and the image of Christ. This is for the sake of Kingdom service and mission in the world
- Character, Knowledge, Wisdom are all shaped as we educate children
Third Principle: There are many paths to faithfully fulfill that duty.
Though a diversity of paths can help us fulfill our calling as parents, the following will not lead us towards faithfulness:
- Entrust public schools to educate children without parental shaping/modeling in the gospel
- Entrust private or Christian schools without parental shaping/modeling in the gospel
- Believing that home schooling is not without its own risks and difficulties
We must be involved as parents in the education of our kids. God gave us this responsibility. There are many partners in this endeavor including other parents, church community and our schooling choices. Our family has engaged with three different schooling models over the last 11 years. We home schooled our oldest one year, we've had our kids in classical Christian schools and now we are in public school with our daughters. The following are a few warnings and encouragements to help you as parents with walking in your schooling choices.
- Warnings for public schoolers – the complete disconnecting of knowledge from the knowledge of God is a disjunction you must address. Your work must have “integration” of subject matter into a broader Christian conceptual scheme. So your task is to teach your children how “Math” and “God” relate…and many other such subjects. Additionally, you will need to provide some training in worldview, thoughtful engagement and apologetics to help your kids interact with the godless universe they will be presented.
- Warnings for private schoolers – there is a temptation when attending elite private schools to completely check out of your children’s educational experience due to the fact that paid professionals, who have a track record of certain kinds of results, are leading your children. Watching for pride, elitism and the idolatry of societal success and position must be addressed in some settings. See also the warning for public schoolers as this is applicable here in many cases as well depending upon the worldview of the private school.
- Warnings for Christian schoolers – there is a temptation to think your kids are “safe” from worldly influences being in a Christian school. We must not forget that the imparting of faith must first come from your home and from the household of God (the church) and not simply the school. Additionally, there can be just as much sin in Christian schools as there is in non Christians and having the label “Christian” does not mean the all the kids have a holy agenda 24/7. You also must resist “bubbling off” your kids from our lost world and mission.
- Warnings for home schoolers – Home schoolers, have to resist the temptation to see themselves as better, more pure, or prideful pioneers. Grace must be extended to other families who have not chosen “the way” of home school. Additionally, your children must be involved in the mission in your local church and have a regular flow of connecting with a lost world and culture. If not, they may prove ineffective in bringing the gospel to bear to people in culture. Here my warning is about mission, not “socialization” and social awkwardness. I think that’s a silly critique of homeschooling. A well-adjusted home school student may not understand and relate to lost people if not connected with them regularly in church/city. A missional church is a must.
- Encouragements for public schoolers – your family has a wonderful opportunity to live out gospel witness with teachers, administrators and other parents who need to see and interact with followers of Jesus
- Encouragements for private schoolers – the educational dedication of some private schools is fantastic and you too can engage with people in culture as a witness for Jesus.
- Encouragements for Christian schoolers – to have Scripture and a biblical worldview be an integrated part of learning at school is a wonderful thing. To have your family and your school cooperating with the same worldview goals is an excellent help establishing your kids in the gospel and having an integrated view of knowledge.
- Encouragements for home schoolers – the relationships and context of learning is natural and free flowing as you explore God’s world with your kids. This is something to relish and be thankful for. Your ability to move at the “right pace” for your child is a gift that you can direct with wisdom. Additionally, learning is not institutionalized and can become a natural love and life long process of your children. God has placed you in charge of your child’s education as parents. Relish the flexibility, opportunities and choices that abound for you.
One final word of exhortation. In local churches we must seek to be an encouragement and help to one another as we educate our children, bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We don't need "schooling wars" even as you go about your responsibilities and educational choices with passion and conviction. Be a blessing and a help to those choosing both similar and different educational paths to your family. We have too many other important battles to fight to go to war about school.