With two sons graduating from High School in the next couple of weeks – one from a Christian school and one from a “virtual” school – I’ve been thinking a lot about my God-given responsibility as a father to ensure that my children are educated in “the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). I take that to mean that I am to teach and discipline each child just as Christ would, were he physically present to do so.
But what does that look like in practice? How does that principle help us choose the right place, curriculum, and personnel for teaching our children?
As someone who was raised entirely in the public school system and who has subsequently used homeschooling, homeschooling cooperatives, online school, and a little bit of Christian school in my kids’ education so far, here’s my “vision” of what an ideal Christian education would look like. I know I’ll never find this perfectly in this world, but I’m looking for as much of this as I can in whatever method, or combination of methods, I choose.
1. The Bible is the foundation
The foundation of all education must be the Bible, not tradition, personal preferences, or majority opinion.
But what does that mean?
It means that the Bible is the content of some of the teaching, is appropriately referred to in all subjects, and is the measure of all that is taught. In other words, nothing contradicts the Bible and the Bible is positively taught.
2. The Gospel (not law) is central
We want our children taught God’s law, what’s right and wrong. We want them taught morals and manners. But do’s and don’ts must never be the priority. The Gospel must be the priority – what Christ has DONE. This means that:
- The Gospel is taught throughout the curriculum.
- The Gospel is believed, publicly professed, and lived out by the teachers.
- The Gospel is applied in the administration, and especially in the discipline, of the school.
- The Gospel is offered, indeed pressed upon the children at suitable times.
Whatever else our kids get from their education, they must get that the Gospel is the most important thing in all the world, far more important than good grades, good reports, or good morals. Whatever else they know, they have to know that they must be born again, that a Christian education does not make them Christians.
3. A balanced view of the world
We want our children warned against the dangers of worldliness. And that’s not so much about externals such as hair length, skirt tightness, and designer logos. It’s the far more subtle, dangerous, and largely hidden worldliness of the heart – individualism, materialism, pride, idolatry, vanity, haughtiness, etc, that we want to focus on.
We also want our children prepared for the world by equipping them with knowledge of what they will face in the world and how to combat it with biblical truth. We don’t want our children totally sheltered from the world and unprepared for going out into it. They must know and understand the world’s -ologies and -isms, in order to critique, combat, and replace them with the Bible’s worldview.
And, finally, we want our children to embrace and celebrate God’s work in the world. We don’t want them viewing this world as a completely terrible place full of nothing but disasters, death, and dangers. No, we want them to see God’s common grace at work in multiple places, creating much that is good and praiseworthy. This includes celebrating the unique strengths and abilities of the different races, ethnicities, cultures, and nations.
4. A holistic view of human flourishing
We don’t want to produce a bunch of geeks who have no heart for others and are of no practical use to anyone. Neither do we want to just produce a bunch of kids who can do lots of arts and crafts but don’t know how to think. We want a balanced view of human flourishing that seeks to multiply God’s gifts in the head, the heart, and the hands.
We want educators who value the intellect, but who equally value manual skills, and who want their pupils to cultivate caring and compassion for others. All these intellectual, practical, and relational gifts should be equally celebrated and cultivated, so that no kid feels inferior or neglected because they are not the kindergarten valedictorian.
That’s my vision for Christian education. What’s yours?