THE BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN VIEW OF EDUCATION
by Alison Shortridge
Before we can discuss what Christian education is, we need to ask ourselves what education is. Education is not simply the acquiring of factual knowledge. Although facts are necessary in the process, they do not constitute education. "Getting an education" is not synonymous with "passing exams".
If we compare education to a fruit tree, the facts would be represented by the leaves. Leaves are very necessary to a tree, and without them, a tree will die. However, there is more to a tree than just the leaves. Leaves die and fall off the tree, just as facts (so-called) change with increasing knowledge, or are forgotten. We do not keep a fruit tree for the leaves.
More permanent than the leaves are the trunk and branches of the tree. These represent the world view that we are being taught. It is important for us to realise that all education teaches a world view of some kind – either a theistic world view, in which man is directed to an authority above and beyond himself, or a non-theistic world view, in which man assumes himself to be the ultimate authority. Another way of saying this is to say that all education is religious education – there is no such thing as so-called "secular" education. When schools move away from a Biblical world view, in which God is acknowledged as the ultimate authority, they substitute for that a humanistic world view, in which man is regarded as the ultimate authority. As neither of these two positions lie within the realm of scientific investigation and proof, we have to face the fact that both are positions of faith. In the last analysis, everybody lives by faith – faith either in the God presupposed to be there, or faith in the conclusions of men known to have lived.
Does it matter what world view we are taught at school? Yes, because this is a fruit tree. The fruit that it bears will depend on the type of tree it is. As Jesus said, "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit; nor can a bad tree bear good fruit"(Matthew 7:18). If children are educated in terms of a humanistic world view, the fruit that is produced in their lives will be humanistic fruit. Even if that child becomes a Christian, his thought patterns will be humanistic. This is why the Bible tells us in Romans 12:1-2 that we are to "be renewed in the spirit of our minds" – we need to change those humanistic thought patterns for Biblical thought patterns. Because God is God, this can be done. However, it would be much better if we had Biblical thought patterns to start with.
What "fruit" do we get from our education tree? First of all, we get the fruit of "values". Our values in turn produce our "behaviour", and our collective behaviour makes up our "society". When we look around at our society today, we certainly do not see evidence of a Biblical world view – rather, we see the fruits of humanistically inspired selfishness, arrogance, laziness, dishonesty and immorality.
Those of us who know something about history will realise that this has not always been the case. In Great Britain in particular, there was a Biblical world view that pervaded every area of society for a long time. When Queen Victoria was asked by an African chief what the secret was of England’s greatness, she gave him a Bible. After the Reformation – and particularly after the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 – the people of England had become people of the Book, and that Book was the Bible. This position was renewed in the Wesley-Whitfield Revival of the eighteenth century. As a result of that Biblical world view, England became a great nation. Now that they have moved away from their Biblical foundations, they have declined as a world power.
What God has done in the past He can and will do again. However, we need to do our part. A very important part in the process is the restoration of Biblical Christian education, so that a generation can grow up with a Biblical world view. This brings us to the roots of our tree – it needs to be solidly rooted in God Himself, and grounded in His Word, the Bible.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A WORLD VIEW?
A world view is a philosophy, or, more simply, a way of looking at life. Every world view has the following components:
1. A system of authority.
2. A belief about where we come from.
3. A belief about what is right and wrong.
4. A belief about who man is.
5. A belief about where we are going.
Let us compare two diametrically opposed world views to see how this works out in practice:
THE HUMANISTIC WORLD VIEW
System of Authority: As a fundamental doctrine of humanism is that there is no God, there is no possibility of a supernaturally inspired authoritative work such as the Bible. Instead, humanists accept as authoritative the works of philosophers from ancient times (e.g. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle), down through history (e.g. Voltaire, Descartes, Rousseau), to the present (e.g. Darwin, Marx, Freud, Engels, Nietszche, Dewey, Spock).
Where do we come from? A humanistic system presupposes that there is no supernatural being "out there" controlling our destinies. Man is therefore a product of evolutionary chance, a series of genetic "accidents". He is responsible to no-one except himself. "Every day, in every way, he is getting better and better." We also need to take great care of our environment – there is nobody else to look after it. It all depends on man – if we fail, our grandchildren will have no world to live in. This is the basis of the "Greenpeace" movement.
What is right and wrong? For a humanist, there is no such thing as an absolute moral standard. Each individual decides for himself what is right or wrong, and society determines the framework of what is acceptable or not acceptable. This framework changes with the generations. What was wrong for our parents is not necessarily wrong for us. For example, there was a time when "living together" was considered wrong, but now it is considered normal, sensible, even desirable. Man is responsible to no-one but himself.
Who is man? According to the humanist, man is simply the highest product of evolution. He is superior to all other creatures (sorry, evolutionures) because of his well-developed brain. Man, by taking thought and acting collectively, can control his destiny and the destiny of the whole earth. Man has the potential within himself to solve all known problems, such as poverty, disease, ignorance and war. In order to do this he must work together with others. Thus, for a humanist, "socialization" is of paramount importance. Man is not created by any supernatural force or being, and is therefore not responsible to anyone except himself.
Where are we going? Humanists believe history moves evolutionarily. We are moving towards the perfect, utopian society, in which there will be no problems such as poverty, disease, ignorance and war. We will achieve this by working together and by putting our superior brain power to work. We will select from all mankind the most intelligent people to rule over us all. There will be no more divisions such as national barriers, economic barriers, language barriers, racial barriers or even gender barriers – all will be equal. There will be perfect equality, perfect freedom, perfect brotherhood. This is why humanists have such a positive attitude towards Marxism
BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY VERSUS HUMANISM
(With acknowledgements to Tim La Haye, The Battle for the Mind, published by Zondervan Press.)
and Communism – their world view is virtually identical to the Marxist ideal. In the struggle to reach this perfect state of things, there is going to be war, bloodshed and great loss of life. Humanists have therefore divided wars into two types: "good" wars and "bad" wars. Any war that advances the cause of global utopia (communism) is a "good" war (e.g. the Gulf War) and should be fought. Any war that does not do this is a "bad" war, and should not be fought (e.g. the Vietnam War). When we understand this, we will begin to understand international politics.
Think about what your child is learning at school and watching on T.V. Doesn’t it correspond to the above ideas?
THE BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN WORLD VIEW
System of Authority: As Christians we accept the Bible as the authoritative, infallible Word of God. It is the final authority in the life of a Christian, and is the "Source Book" for every discipline of study and every area of life. There is no area of life about which the Bible says nothing. In Biblical Christian education, therefore, the Bible has to be central.
Where do we come from? God has told us in His Word that He has created all that exists, including man. Each person is individually created in the image of God, and is unique. Man is thus responsible to God, his Creator. God is also the Creator and Preserver of His creation. Although man is responsible to look after the earth, God is the One Who preserves the earth. We don’t have to worry that there will be no earth for our grandchildren to live on, because God is in control. At the same time, we are not to be careless and wasteful in the way we treat the earth, because we will have to give account to the true Owner one day. Thus we avoid simultaneously the twin errors of earth-worship and earth-neglect.
What is right and wrong? As God is our Creator, He has the right to determine how we should live. He has given us full instructions in His Word on how we are to live. Our first responsibility is to worship and obey Him in all things, and our second is to act in love towards all other people. God’s moral laws are unchanging. We don’t break them – just as we don’t "break" the law of gravity – they break us if we ignore them. In our present society there is ample evidence to show that it is sheer folly to ignore the laws of God. Doing so does not harm Him, as He is always the same, but it does harm us, and eventually destroys us and our society.
Who is man? Man is a being created in the image of God, the highest point of creation. Man is neither free nor determined – he is responsible to God. Each person is who he is because of his response to God, whether positive or negative. No person can refuse to respond to God, and God knows the response of every individual human heart. No man can successfully oppose God, for He is Sovereign Lord over all mankind. However, man is in a state of rebellion against God. In spite of this, man is loved by God, to such an extent that God was willing to die for man in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who bore our sins in His own body on the Cross. The Bible tells us that all mankind will live for ever – either in heaven with God, or in hell without Him. Each individual person is therefore of eternal significance. There is no higher view of man than the Biblical view.
Where are we going? God has set up His Kingdom on this earth by coming and living among us in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross and rising again from the dead. Each person who comes to Him through the Lord Jesus Christ, turning away from his sin in true repentance and asking His forgiveness, is born again into His Kingdom. Our duty as Christians is to establish His Kingdom in our own lives and in every area in which we live and work. One day our King, Jesus Christ, will come back and be acknowledged by all, Christians and non-Christians, as the Lord of all. His Kingdom will last forever.
If our children are taught in accordance with the above framework, it will make a tremendous difference to the way they live.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT EDUCATION?
As we have said, all education is religious. Education in the West has been based during the twentieth century on the humanistic world view. One of the most influential people in this regard has been John Dewey (not to be confused with the John Dewey who drew up the Dewey Decimal System used in libraries).
John Dewey was a dedicated humanist and an atheist. He drew up and was a signatory to the First Humanist Manifesto, published in 1933. He was an educator, a professor at Columbia University, and had tremendous influence on teacher training in the United States. He is known as "The Father of Progressive Education", and the current public school system is the best expression to date of his ideas.
John Dewey became very dissatisfied with the American system of education in the 1930’s. He objected to the absolutist nature of the curriculum, and to the obviously Christian foundation. Here are a few quotes from John Dewey:
"Elementary schooling was everywhere in the past devoted to the promotion of literacy. It was identified with acquiring skill in reading, writing and figuring … higher education was almost equally controlled by concern for symbols, namely advanced mathematics and foreign languages." … John Dewey, 1930.
If children are not meant to learn to read, write and cipher at school, what are they meant to do? John Dewey believed that schools should be agents for social engineering:
"Schools do have a role – in the production of social change." … John Dewey, 1930.
"It is the business of the school environment to eliminate … the unworthy features of the existing environment …Selection aims not only at simplifying but at weeding out what is undesirable." … John Dewey, 1938.
And what did he consider "undesirable"?
"We must drive the very idea of God from the mind of man." …John Dewey, 1938.
In an educational setting, this means simply leaving God out of the subject matter being studied. Religious Instruction is permitted – as long as it is kept separate from the "important" subjects in the curriculum. In this way children will get used to thinking of the practical issues of life without any reference to God whatsoever.
"The teacher is the new missionary – it is his job to spread the new gospel of Humanism to the children." … John Dewey, 1938.
Notice the religious terminology used. Humanism is a religion!
These ideas of John Dewey – and many more – have formed the basis for Western education (including South African education – even so-called "Christian" National Education) for the second half of the twentieth century. When we understand this, we will understand why educational standards have plummeted, both in the United States and in South Africa.
Some of the important results of humanist-based education are:
A de-emphasis on the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. The "Look-and-Say" method of teaching reading has virtually gutted the literacy of the nation. Children are taught to guess words rather than to read, and are unfit to read anything except the newspaper, magazines and popular novels. This effectively cuts them off from the world of ideas and serious thought. The "New Maths" has had a similar effect on the mathematical prowess of the nation, producing a generation of people who are dependent on calculators for even the simplest calculations, and who seem to be completely devoid of the ability to think logically.
A de-emphasis on factual knowledge. According to humanists, the facts are not important. After all, there is such a great amount of knowledge in the world. It is impossible for anyone to learn it all. Pupils need rather to learn how to access information – in encyclopedias, the library, on the computer, etc. What is really important is that the pupils "grow together in the process of becoming". We therefore find that the actual content of the subject is played down, while more emphasis is placed on project- and group-work.
A strong emphasis on socialization skills. According to humanists, people need to learn to work together in order to solve all the problems of our world. At school, then, pupils must above all else learn to work together. In the practical classroom situation, this can take the form of group discussions, group projects, class debates and so on. What is discussed is not as important as the discussion process. The democratic procedure is also used extensively to teach the children to bow to the majority view of the group.
A strong emphasis on self-expression. For the humanist, there is no absolute standard of right and wrong. Personal opinion becomes the final authority. Children must be encouraged to "express themselves" without limitation. As knowledge is found within ourselves, we will discover what we need to know without being told by some outside authority. There is therefore a strong emphasis on "discovery learning". In the current public school system the role of the teacher has been further de-emphasised, so that now he/she is called a "facilitator" rather than a teacher.
A strong emphasis on "fun" in education. If children are to be free to express themselves, they must not be forced to do things that they don’t want to do. All "drudgery" must therefore be removed from education. Everything should be "fun" and attractive to the child. "Drudgery" would include anything that takes some effort, for example, memorising poetry or the tables, practising long division, learning lists of dates, rivers, mountains or products of countries, etc.
WHAT ABOUT BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN EDUCATION?
As we have said, all education is religious. Biblical Christian education is based on the Biblical Christian world view, and this will affect all areas of study.
What does God say about education?
"These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe … so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands … so that you may enjoy long life … be careful to obey so that it may go well with you … these commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads … be careful that you do not forget the Lord. …Deuteronomy 6:1-12 (NIV)
Education, according to God, is supposed to take place all the time, within the context of normal, daily life.
"We will not hide them from our children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power … wonders … statutes … and … law … so the next generation would know them … and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God … and … would keep His commands. They would not be like their forefathers … stubborn and rebellious … whose hearts were not loyal to God. … Psalm 78:4-8 (NIV)
Notice the order of things here: we are to teach the next generation about Who God is and what He has done, and then they will put their trust in Him. God does not expect us or our children to make "blind leaps of faith". He wants us to know in Whom we are putting our trust – and we can only know that by being taught by somebody else who already knows Him as Lord in every area of life.
What does God have to do with a normal school curriculum?
"For by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." … Colossians 1:16-17 (NIV)
As all things were created "by Him and for Him", it follows that He must be the centre of every discipline of study. To ignore the Creator when attempting to study His creation is sheer folly:
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." … Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
"… Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." … Colossians 2:3 (NIV)
Let us remember, then, that God has a purpose in education:
"And He made known to us the mystery of His will … to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one Head, even Christ." … Ephesians 1:9-10 (NIV)
From this we know that God’s purpose in South Africa is to bring this nation into submission to our Lord Jesus Christ. When we teach a Biblical Christian world view to our children, we become part of this great work and endeavour of His. What a privilege!
Some of the features of Biblical Christian education are:
A strong emphasis on the "relevants", i.e. the "Three R’s". Because God has communicated with us through a written Word, it is of vital importance that we learn to read, write and cipher well. In reading we teach the most logical method: that of learning the letters and the sounds corresponding to them and learning how to put letters (and sounds) together to make words. At the same time we learn to write and spell what we are reading. In Maths we teach first the basics: number combinations, tables, how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, how to work with fractions, decimals and percentages. When these basics have been mastered, we teach our pupils how to apply them in real-life situations. For this logical thought processes are vitally important, as well as a "tidy mind". One reason why Biblical Christian education is always popular with the ordinary man-in-the-street is because normal parents want their children to learn to read, write and cipher, and they recognize that these skills are taught in schools based on the Biblical Christian world view, while they are lacking in humanistically controlled schools.
A strong emphasis on discipline and order. Christians recognize that man, though created in the image of God, is depraved. This means that he is fallen, ruined by sin, and is unable to respond properly to God apart from the grace of God. It also means that man in his natural condition is a rebel. That rebellion must be dealt with early in a person’s life, so that later they will be able to turn to God and obey Him. Children are not "naturally good" and "naturally keen to learn". They have to be trained in diligence and good study habits. They have to learn to do patiently work that sometimes seems tedious and even (to the child) unnecessary. They have to submit themselves to the teacher’s way of doing things, even if they themselves think that they can find a better, shorter and easier way. They have to have humility of mind in order to be able to learn from others. They have to submit to the discipline of exams. These, and many other things, contribute to the discipling of the child in the ways of the Lord.
A strong emphasis on hard work. A Biblical Christian realizes that work is not part of God’s curse on man. Work was given to Adam before the Fall. The Bible tells us that God works continually – in the hearts and lives of His people, in the affairs of nations, in the care for and upholding of His creation. Work, therefore, cannot be a bad thing. In fact, work is a form of worship, and is a great blessing to mankind. Children have their work assigned by God just as adults do. The work of a child is to study, so that he can be trained in the ways and works of God and can one day take his place as a faithful steward of God’s creation in whatever field to which God may call him. Children will one day give account to God for the way they have done their work, just as adults will. We do not do our children any favours when we try to make school one long fun-session. Children who learn to work hard are the ones who find deep enjoyment and satisfaction in their studies – not those who do as little as possible hoping to have more leisure time.
The realization that God is Lord over all of life. As a child studies the different subjects from a Biblical Christian perspective, he begins to realise that God is in control of every area of life. God is a wonderful Mathematician, a skillful Scientist, a brilliant Strategist, in control of History (which is actually His Story), a great Artist, and so on. God has given directions on such practical matters as buying and selling, employers and employees, dealing with crime, family relationships, and many, many more. Just as there is no place where we can flee from His presence (Psalm 139), so there is no area of life in which He has nothing to say. All life is sacred. All legitimate work is done as unto the Lord. All relationships are subject to His scrutiny.
A strong emphasis on our personal relationship to God. A Biblical Christian realizes that a person is who he is on the basis of his response to God – either positive or negative. Thus the primary relationship for any person is that person’s relationship to God. After that, his relationship with his fellow man is of great importance. The child is "vertically socialized"; i.e. he is taught how to relate to God, his parents, older and younger siblings and other relatives. In this way he is fitted for society, and is able to relate to all kinds of people on the basis of the Biblical principles governing relationships that he has learned at home.
A MODEL OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION: THE WHEEL
The basic principle at the root of the Biblical Christian world view is that Jesus Christ is Lord over all of life. This means that there is no such thing as "sacred" versus "secular". Jesus Christ is Lord in politics, in the family, in the business world and in education just as much as He is Lord in the Church. Our duty as Christians is to bring this perspective to our world, to inform others of His Lordship in these different areas, and to implement this practically wherever we can. This is why a Biblical Christian has no use for the term "full-time Christian service", as this implies that there is simultaneously a "part-time Christian service". Every Christian is called by God to implement His way and will in the area of life in which they are involved.
There are seven areas of life which influence all people. They are as follows:
The Church – because man is a worshipper. Ever since Jesus Christ came to invade the history of our world, every person has had to come to terms with this fact, whether they accept Him as Lord and Saviour or not. Those who have never heard of Him, or who have rejected Him, are involved in false worship of one kind or another. God calls upon us to worship and praise Him as the highest Being over all that is.
The Arts – because man is a creator, being made in the image of God. God has endowed man with differing gifts and talents. Every person has some creative ability within himself or herself. We are to use these gifts and talents to the glory of God.
Education – because man is a learner. Children are born curious. (The only way to destroy that curiosity is to send them to a humanistic school!) God’s first commandment to man was to "subdue the earth". In order to do this, we have to know about our world. God wants us to know – but we are to observe His basic principle in this too: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). It is significant that as education has moved away from its Christian basis, so the standards have dropped. People today are far more ignorant than people of, say, a hundred years ago, even though they theoretically know more facts. In Science we have been living on the capital of the past, and that cannot last forever. As we return to the Lord in education, we will find that the standard of work and study is raised, and new discoveries will once again begin to be made.
JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OVER ALL OF LIFE
Revelation 7:12 and Philippians 4:8
Economics – because man is a worker. God instituted work before the Fall, and God Himself set the example by working in creation, and by continuing to work, not only in the lives of individual men and women, but in preserving and maintaining His whole creation. Man’s work is to be done as a form of worship to God. God has so ordained that man will earn his keep by honest, hard work, and He blesses diligence with prosperity. We have to be careful, however, not to forget that it is God "Who gives us the ability to produce wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:18), and be thankful to Him. One way of doing this is by honouring Him with the first-fruits of our labours, by tithing our income faithfully. When we do this, we acknowledge His Lordship over us in this area. We are also not to fall into one of two errors: either seeing work as an undesirable thing and trying to get out of it as much as possible, or becoming so involved with our work that we become workaholics. Both errors are wrong. God has given us one day in seven to rest, so that we will work hard for six days (countering the first error) and will rest on the seventh (countering the second).
The Media – because man is a communicator. It was God Who first said "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). In our relationships with others, we are to honour the Lord by dealing truthfully, fairly and respectfully with our fellow human beings. This applies at the individual level, the national level and the international level.
The Government – because man is a ruler. God is the Author of government, which He instituted for the orderly procedure of fallen man. The God-given responsibility of government is to provide protection for its citizens, whether from outside attack or from criminal activity within the country, and to see that justice is done. Those who govern are to do so in submission to Jesus Christ, Who is King of all kings and Lord of all lords. When this is the case, a government will be operating from a position of strength – the strength of the Lord Himself. It is not the function of government to provide education, medical care and financial help for its needy citizens. These functions are to be undertaken by families, the private sector and/or the church.
The Family – because man is a procreator. God has ordained that human beings will be involved with Him in the bringing into being of new people. This is a sacred responsibility, and must not be treated lightly. God has ordained the marriage relationship, so that two people who love one another and are committed to one another will be able to bring into the world more people, whom they will love, feed, clothe and provide for and raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In doing this important task parents are given the privilege of working alongside the Creator Himself. The marriage relationship must be kept pure and free from sexual immorality of any kind, so that this can be done.
JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OVER ALL OF LIFE
HOW DO THE SCHOOL SUBJECTS FIT INTO THIS FRAMEWORK?
We can divide the school subjects into these seven areas. God is central to all these areas – He is not confined to the Church! As what we learn at school is meant to prepare us to live our lives in the "real world", the school subjects must reflect these seven areas. We have divided them up as follows (note that there is a certain amount of overlapping – we cannot "box God in"; nor can we box our school subjects into one area.)
The Church: Physical Education, Biology, Health. These are subjects dealing with the human body, and the Church is the Body of Christ. Certain basic principles (e.g. cleanliness) apply to both.
The Arts: Art, Music, Drama, Literature and Poetry, Sport – anything that people are talented in will fall into this category. Pupils should be reminded that we are given gifts and talents for three purposes: firstly, to glorify our Creator in the way we use our God-given creativity; secondly, to enable us to make a living someday, as we are suited for one type of work rather than another; thirdly, to benefit the community at large by sharing our talents with others.
Education: Mathematics, Science, Geography. These are subjects dealing with the mind and with finding out things about our world. In these subjects it is important for us to submit to God’s Word, and to remember that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." We should not accept the theories of men unless they line up with God’s Source Book, the Bible. If scientific theories contradict Scripture, we can be sure they are wrong.
Economics: Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Computer Studies. God has said an amazing amount in His Word about economic relationships. We are to earn our living by hard work (not by winning large sums of money with very little effort); be honest in our dealings with others, whether buying or selling, employing or being employed; and see ourselves as stewards of all in our possession, recognizing that everything belongs to God. We are to live in such a way as to be prepared to give account for the life that God has given us, at any time. (The name "Accounting" says it all!)
The Media: The Languages – English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, French, German, Latin, etc. God is the Author of all languages, and every language has a God-created, unique structure. We call this structure the "grammar" of the language. When we study grammar, we study God’s handiwork. We should therefore approach the study of grammar with reverence, unlike the humanists, who have decided that grammar is not important and therefore not worth studying! Languages are all about communication. As Christians we are to communicate with others according to guidelines set down in Scripture: in love, with honesty, etc.
The Government: History and parts of Geography. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is "King of kings and Lord of lords". This means that He is Lord over every government, whether personal, family, church or state. History is a record of how rulers have responded to God’s authority over them, and the results of that response. The only way we can hope to learn something from history is to study it from a Biblical Christian perspective. In this way we will learn how God deals with nations, and maybe be able to help our own nation to return to Him.
The Family: Family & Consumer Science, etc. These practical subjects are important in helping us to develop practical skills necessary in running a home or family. However, that is not all we need to know. This is also an appropriate time to study family relationships, and how God expects us to function in our families to His glory.
THE THEOCENTRIC CHRISTIAN EDUCATION CURRICULUM
BASED ON THE TWENTY-SEVEN CHARACTER QUALITIES OF GOD
In order to help us to centre the curriculum on God Himself, we at T.C.E. use twenty-seven character qualities of God as themes. They divide into three groups, and we use nine per year, covering a period of three years altogether. Then we go back to the first one again, so that a child covers all twenty-seven character qualities four times in the course of his school career, at different stages of his development.
Here are the twenty-seven character qualities of God:
| 1. Creator || 10. Light || 19. Wisdom |
| 2. Person || 11. Truth || 20. Resourceful |
| 3. Faithful || 12. Joy || 21. Protector |
| 4. Love || 13. Peace || 22. Shepherd |
| 5. Father || 14. Preserver || 23. Kind and Gentle |
| 6. Good, Righteous, Holy || 15. Just || 24. Meek and Humble |
| 7. Lord and King || 16. Merciful || 25. Patient |
| 8. Forgiving || 17. Gracious || 26. Self-controlled |
| 9. Healer || 18. Provider || 27. Servant |
For each theme there is a Bible passage that has to be memorized. This memory work is very important to our system and is examined in June and November. The pupil may forget all he has learned in the course of his/her school career, but God has promised that His Word will not return void to Him, but will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11). We believe, therefore, that the Scripture memorizing part of the course is the most important thing the child will do during his school career.
We have also assigned theme hymns for each character quality. The hymns are the poetry of the Church, and serve as a reminder of those who have gone before and been faithful to our Lord during their lifetimes. We are encouraged as we learn their words to be faithful in the way we live our lives.
EXAMPLE: "GOD IS FAITHFUL" IN ALL THE SCHOOL SUBJECTS
When we use the character qualities of God as themes, we try to focus each subject on that character quality, so that our children are learning about Who God is and what He is like through the subject matter. Here is an example of how we would do this with the third character quality in the series: God is Faithful.
Physical Education, Health, Biology: God is faithful in building our bodies to respond to good care, and He has given us guidelines in caring for our bodies. In Biology we can see His faithfulness to even the tiniest members of His creation: all are perfectly designed to live in the environment in which He has placed them.
Art, Music, Drama, etc: God is faithful in showing us His character through His artwork – creation. As we see the beauty all around us, we realise that only Someone Who really understands beauty could have created it. Modern artists tend to distort reality (whether they are working in art or music), but God’s artwork is reality, and it is very beautiful. What an encouragement for us when life is difficult – that the Creator of all is the Author of all beauty, and He can make something beautiful of our lives, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be.
Maths, Science, Geography: God is faithful in setting up a numerical system that we can use as a tool to discover the principles governing His creation. He has created the world around constant principles which we can study and follow to invent new things.
Accounting, Business Economics, Typing: God is faithful in that He is very practical. He understands money and that we need it in this world in order to provide for our needs. He has therefore said a great deal about economic relationships in His Word, so that we can be instructed in the basic principles of stewardship, honesty and fair and just dealings with one another. "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2). We learn faithfulness in these matters by learning to do things in an orderly fashion, neatly, and paying attention to detail.
English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, French, German, Latin, etc: God is faithful to all human beings in giving every group a unique language for their use. Every language is perfect in its structure, yet it is continually growing as words are added, dropped, changed in meaning, etc. God has communicated with us by means of language. We need to be faithful in mastering our own and other languages, so that we can understand what He says to us, and be of service to Him in taking the Gospel to others.
History, Geography: In these subjects we see God’s faithfulness to all peoples. He has given every group a place to live and has set the times for them to live there (Acts 17:26). He has given us His guidelines for our nation to be blessed, and His warnings which, if ignored, will lead to our nation being cursed (Deuteronomy 28). As we study the history of our own nation, and others, we need to learn to see it from His perspective, and to see His hand in the affairs of men.
Family & Consumer Science, Industrial Arts, etc: God is faithful in showing us His example. When He makes something, He does it perfectly, paying careful attention to detail. When He created this earth, He did it in an orderly fashion, so that everything was ready for man when he was created on the sixth day. Jesus Himself was a carpenter, and we can be sure that His tables didn’t rock, and that His doors fitted properly! He wants us to have the same attitude of loving attention to detail in these subjects.
We can do the same with all the other character qualities. In the TCE Curriculum we give guidelines for every theme; however, as you work with the curriculum you will find that the Lord Himself gives you ideas as you go along.
Because God has commanded us to teach our children. God has placed the responsibility for passing on the Biblical Christian world view to the next generation squarely on the shoulders of the parents. In a family setting it is possible to talk about the things of God "when we sit down, when we walk by the way" (Deuteronomy 6:7), etc. Sometimes it is completely impossible for a family to homeschool. In such a situation, parents should realise that the education of their child is still their responsibility, and find a tutor or a school which will teach their child in accordance with the Biblical Christian world view to their satisfaction. However, there is no substitute for parental involvement in this area.
For the sake of the individual child. God has created each child to be a unique individual. There is no such thing as an "average" child. Each child has their own needs, their own problems, their own creative abilities. The parent is able to cater for these special needs, whereas a teacher in a classroom situation cannot possibly do so adequately.
For the sake of family unity. When we send our children to school, we create immediately a conflict of authorities. Who is to be obeyed: the teacher or the parent? Where there is no clash, there is no problem; but the day comes when there is a clash. Often this causes the child to feel insecure. Furthermore, the school frequently erodes our family time together. Sport, activities outside of school hours, long hours of homework, special projects that involve the parents in transporting children to libraries or other children’s homes, etc. all tend to fragment the unity of the family. The family frequently finds itself being forced to organise its own activities and special days (birthday outings, etc.) around the school programme. When you homeschool your child, this does not happen. The child has one authority in his/her life, and the life of the home is organised to suit the family.
PRACTICAL TIPS ON HOW TO HOMESCHOOL
- Choose a suitable curriculum.
The academic side of homeschooling is often what bothers parents, who feel that they do not know enough to be able to teach their children. However, a good curriculum is of great value here. There are a number of Christian curricula on the market, and you need to do your homework in order to find out which of them will suit your needs best. T.C.E. supplies you with a full set of high-quality, Christian textbooks (mostly – some are normal South African textbooks), as well as a scheme of work which tells you each week what pages to cover in what book. In this way the parent can be sure of covering the required amount of work in the given time.
We also supply a sample timetable, to show you how to organise your day, as well as a blank one so that you can make up your own based on the same principles. Exams are sent out twice a year – in June and November – and a report is issued each time. If a child should have to return to school for some reason, this report will be accepted as a true record of what he has done while homeschooling.
If you have problems, you may contact us by telephone and we will try to help you. You may start with T.C.E. at any time during the year, and write your exams when you are ready – not necessarily in June or November. We will mark them whenever they come in. Usually a child who starts late will have caught up by the end of the next year.
- Be organised.
Many mothers claim they are not "organised enough" for homeschooling, yet if you visit their homes you will find that they cook in the kitchen, sleep in the bedroom, bath in the bathroom, have set times for doing certain things like cooking, eating, etc. In other words, they are organised! What is required here is that you decide where you will homeschool and during what period of time. It is obviously ideal if you have a room which you can set aside as a schoolroom; however, not all of us are able to do this. Many families sit around the diningroom table to do their lessons. If this is the case, you do need to set aside some place – a cupboard, a box, or something else – where you can keep all the books and equipment that you need. Pencils, rubbers, rulers, etc. should be kept in a special place so that valuable time is not wasted by people having to look for them every morning.
Then, too, each family has its own particular challenges to face. Are there younger children? The timetable must be set up in such a way that they are accommodated as well. If they are past the baby stage, they normally want to "do school" as well! Babies can be fed and changed with a minimum of disruption in a family context. This is a big improvement on having to wake the baby up to take him out in the car to fetch someone from school!
Housework also presents a challenge. This is a good opportunity to get children to help run the home – they can learn to tidy their rooms, wash dishes, vacuum clean and all sorts of other things from quite an early age. You can set aside a certain time for doing this, after which school time begins. If school has to start a little later, that is no problem – this is your home and you are free to organise your time in a way that best suits you.
- What about socialization?
This is probably one of the most-asked questions. The reason is, of course, that humanists place a very high priority on "socialization", as we saw when we were discussing the humanist world view. We need to remember two things.
First, God was the first Person to be concerned about socialization, and He answered the need by creating the first family. Children are best socialized by learning to get along at home with their parents, their older and younger siblings, their other relatives such as grannies, granddads, aunts and uncles, and family friends. In a Christian home, the relationship with God is stressed as being the most important of all relationships. In a school situation the children learn to get along with – or at least to survive in – their peer group. This does not prepare them for the "real world" because "peer groups" only exist at school. The "real world" consists of people of all ages, whichever field you decide to enter.
The second thing we need to remember is that we are not cutting our children off from all other people. They may be studying at home, but most go to church and Sunday School, attend ballet or music or art or some other classes, join the Guides, Brownies, Scouts or Cubs or some other youth group, mix with extended family members and have friends from the neighbourhood as well. School is not the only place where children can meet other children. The difference is that the parents can monitor what kind of children and young people their children are mixing with, and this saves a great deal of trouble and heartache later on.
- How much does it cost, in time and money?
Homeschooling is cost effective as you don't have to spend money on uniforms, transport costs and endless requests for money.
As far as time is concerned, this is going to cost you. Our course is not designed to be a self-study programme, which means that the parent – usually the mother – has to be involved. She should regard this as the same as being employed in a full-time job: she is not available for coffee mornings, telephone chats or other interruptions in the morning. I personally found that when I gave my children my full attention for the duration of schooltime (8:00 a.m.to 2:30 p.m.) they did not demand my attention during the afternoon, so I did have some free time.
You also need to set aside some time every day to check what has been done by each child and keep their books marked up to date. Once a week you need to set aside some time (usually a couple of hours) to go through the work for the following week and decide how you are going to do it – in other words, make up a daily programme a week in advance. You do not have to "prepare lessons" as such, as a teacher would do, but you do need to look over the work and make sure you understand it so that you and your child can go through it together. We recommend that you set up your timetable in such a way that you teach for the first part of an hour-long lesson, and then assign work for the child to do on his own. If you have other children, you can then go to the next one and do the same, so that each child has individual time with you. If you do not, you can spend that extra time marking, preparing, or simply doing other things around the house. The important thing is that your child knows that you are involved in his schooling and that you are not simply leaving him on his own to manage as best he can.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON PROBLEMS IN HOMESCHOOLING?
In this life, there are always problems of one kind or another. We cannot find a problem-free way of raising our families or educating our children. We simply need to decide which set of problems we would rather have: the problems associated with home-schooling, or the problems associated with some other way of educating our children. However, here are some of the main problems that we have noticed.
- Lack of commitment on the part of the parent.
In spite of the fact that we tell people that our system is not a self-study programme, we do have instances from time to time of parents who try to get their children to teach themselves, rather than being involved in the teaching process. This does not work, and generally makes the children resent the whole process, as too much responsibility has been placed on them. It is not necessary for the mother to teach every moment of the day, but she must spend time sitting with the children and going through their work with them on an individual basis. This, more than anything else, tells the child that you love him and are genuinely interested in his welfare. Valuable discussions frequently come out of these times. If the child is left alone with his books, much of the benefit of homeschooling will be lost.
- Lack of commitment on the part of the child.
Many children actually ask to be homeschooled, and in these cases they are very keen to work hard. Others jump at the chance of being schooled at home when it is suggested, and these too seldom have a motivation problem (although one might develop when the novelty wears off!)
However, there are some children who are simply unmotivated and have to be forced almost every step of the way. This is obviously very difficult for the parents, and needs to be dealt with. Sometimes the reason is that they have had such a bad time at school that they just hate anything that resembles it in any way. Often it is good to sit down and point out some of the advantages they are enjoying – being able to get up later, being able to put a blanket around them if it is very cold, or maybe do school in front of the fire, being able to have a cup of hot cocoa at tea-time, being able to discuss problems they have with their schoolwork with their mother instead of some unsympathetic or overbusy teacher, etc. Sometimes a good spanking is all that is required from time to time. Often it is a good idea to have some sort of incentive programme going: so many points for finishing your work on time, so many for doing it neatly, etc. A prize can be offered once a certain amount of points has been gained, e.g. we will take a day off and go on a field trip, we will go and have an icecream, I will buy you a new set of pencil crayons, etc. A point system is very flexible – you can adjust it to suit any skill or behaviour which you are hoping to inculcate. (e.g. so many points for having your bed made before breakfast, etc.)
One important thing needs to be taught to all children: the fact that work is meant to be a blessing, not a curse, and that hard work always brings a profit. Our "profit" in schoolwork is that we learn to enjoy learning new things, and that we find life so much more interesting.
- Academic problems.
Children who come into a homeschooling situation after having been in a state or private school for some years frequently find that the work is difficult. This is because they have missed some of their grounding, and the problem would have shown up sooner or later had they stayed at school. The most common problems are reading, spelling and maths.
To address the reading and spelling problem you need to put them onto a phonics based programme, such as our "Reading Step-by-Step", as the problem has been caused by an incorrect teaching method – that of the "Look-and-Say method" of teaching reading.
Maths problems are usually traced to an inadequate grasp of the basics. Good, old-fashioned drill of the number combinations and tables is a good step in the right direction, coupled with an insistence that the child does the work according to the method shown and does not deviate from it. (After all, a child only needs to know one method of doing long division. Let him keep his creativity for Higher Mathematics, if he has an interest in it one day!) Neatness in setting out and plenty of practice are also essentials in Mathematics.
Where children have problems with their learning subjects, it is helpful to give them many short tests and quizzes, and also to teach them how to make short summaries of their work.
The key to all these problems is patience – let the child see that you are not worried about his mistakes, and that you are prepared to help him to do better. Let him see that you have the confidence that once you have straightened out the problem, he will do better. This gives the child confidence and encourages him to work through his problems, rather than giving up.
- Academic subjects which are beyond the parent’s ability or knowledge.
In the higher standards it sometimes happens that a child is doing work that his mother cannot help him with at all (especially when the child has just come into a homeschooling situation). In this case it is wise for the parents to find someone who can give extra lessons in that subject. It is a good idea for the Mom or Dad to accompany the child to the lessons, so that he or she can find out more about the subject. Homeschooling should be a learning experience for the whole family.
Despite what we have said already about socialization not being a problem, there are situations where a child is lonely because there are no suitable friends nearby, and the child is an only child, or maybe the youngest in a grown-up family. For a Christian family, the first thing we must do is make this a matter of prayer. We know that the Lord is concerned about this problem, and in His own good time He will provide the right friend or friends. Secondly, we need to introduce the child to good books. A love of reading is a powerful defence against loneliness, and one which can be used always – because we cannot be sure that our child will never have periods of loneliness in his life. Thirdly, we should use the situation to encourage the child to find ways of occupying himself which do not involve other people. A child who can amuse himself will never be bored or lonely. Sometimes the Lord allows periods of loneliness in our lives so that we can learn to know Him better.
- Unrealistic expectations.
Some parents feel that homeschooling their children will solve all their educational problems, and make them into strong Christians as well. This is simply not the case. Children have different abilities. We are required to make the most of our abilities, but our best may well not be the same as someone else’s best. We need to teach our children to compare their work with their own previous work, not with someone else’s work. God has created each one as a unique individual for a particular purpose. We need to ask ourselves if God is satisfied with our progress, instead of comparing ourselves with others, favourably or unfavourably.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that if we teach our children according to the Biblical Christian world view, they will become Christians. Some may rebel. Some may simply not have come to that place in their lives where they really understand what it means to be a Christian. God has so arranged things that each person has to make their own personal response to Him. As much as we would like to make our children Christians, it is not possible, and it is not possible because God Himself has made it not possible. All we can do as parents is to be faithful and obedient to the Lord in teaching our children the Biblical Christian world view to the best of our ability, and pray for our children that the Lord in His grace and mercy will bring them to know Him when the time is right.
- Sport and other "school" activities.
If your child is interested in sport there are various ways of providing this opportunity. First of all, some headmasters are willing to allow homeschooled pupils to participate in sport at the local school. This is especially the case with private Christian schools. Secondly, there are sports clubs and gyms available which children can join. Thirdly, a parent may be able to take up hiking or mountaineering with their sons and daughters and channel their sporting ability into something which does not require a whole team. Other activities, such as drama, choir, etc. can often be accommodated in church choirs, drama groups, etc. If there isn’t one in your area and your children are really keen, how about starting one?
IN CONCLUSION …
Homeschooling is a challenge. It is a hard road, but an exciting and rewarding one. Most of those who have embarked on this journey have only one regret – that they didn’t start sooner! For me personally it has given me hope for this country and for the West as I see more and more families training their children in the Biblical Christian world view, knowing that this will result in another reformation such as transformed Europe in the sixteenth century. Let me leave you with this word from the Lord, specially applicable to homeschooling parents:
We continually remember before God:
- your work produced by faith
- your labour prompted by love
- your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
… 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
May the Lord bless you!
Copyright: Theocentric Christian Education 1998.
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