Are you struggling to make a decision about your children’s education? Have you been pondering whether or not a change in education method would be wise? If so, this post is for you (but everyone else is welcome to stay, too :-) ).
In my suburban community, I frequently encounter parents (particularly mothers) who exhibit a high degree of concern and awareness about nutrition, exercise, and natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals. They read stacks of books, numerous articles, and follow various blogs on these topics. They even host or attend classes on how to treat common ailments with diet changes, vitamin supplements, and/or plant-based remedies. I enjoy gleaning tips from them and I commend them for acting in accordance with what they’ve determined–through acquisition of knowledge–to be a more physically healthful lifestyle for themselves and their families. The chain of reasoning seems to be:
1. Physical health is of high importance.
2. A lifestyle conducive to excellent health, to the best of my knowledge, includes X, Y, and Z.
3. Therefore, I should do X, Y, and Z.
But what if someone were to say, “Well, I don’t know if good nutrition and exercise is God’s will for me and my family. I’ll have to pray for His direction about that. His plan is different for everyone.” That sounds utterly absurd, doesn’t it? Of course we should take the best care of the bodies we’ve been given and help our families to follow suit; in this we honor our Creator and reap the wellness benefits.
This is why I am deeply puzzled when someone makes a statement like this concerning a decision about their children’s education. After all, education is instrumental in the health of the soul. If one believes that we are creatures made up of body and soul, and that the state of the soul has eternal ramifications, then soul-health should be our highest priority.
Please hear me: I recognize that having more than one education option is a luxury not everyone has. The point I want to make here is that when it comes to making a decision about a child’s education, when there is more than one option available, the decision to live a healthful lifestyle can be used as an analogy for the education decision-making process.
I think the chain of reasoning can be similarly formulated this way:
1. The health of the soul is of highest importance.
2. The education one receives (academic, spiritual, practical) directly impacts the health of the soul.
3. The education that best edifies the soul, to the best of my knowledge, includes components X, Y, and Z.
4. Therefore, the best education choice is the option that includes X, Y, and Z..
For Christians, #1 and #2 above should be foregone conclusions. Education instills within a person’s soul ideas about goodness and objective truth. Number 3 is the premise that requires parents to investigate and ask serious questions. What elements of an education provide edification of the soul?
I’ve thought long and hard and researched quite a bit concerning this question, and though I do not claim to be an authority on Christian philosophy of education, I feel confident in some of the conclusions I’ve reached.
- All truth is God’s truth. Full integration of the academic disciplines with higher truth principles ultimately models what Christians claim to believe about reality. Artificial compartmentalization of the secular and the sacred can undermine (evidence implies it does undermine) the rightful goal of instilling a robust worldview into our children. Those with a strong academic/inquisitive bent will be more affected by such a split, I believe.
- Regular opportunities to learn in community with peers provide an unparalleled stimulus for critical thinking and learning to extend respect and grace to those with whom one may disagree.
- The value of conversational learning cannot be overestimated. Spontaneous discussions that arise during a lesson of any kind are incredibly effective teaching opportunities. I say this based on experience as a home educator, Sunday school teacher, and college professor. An emotionally safe environment that fosters lots of conversational learning, with no questions being off-limits, is the ideal.
- The most effective education is tailored to the individual student’s learning style, limitations, and personality.
If these are my informed conclusions about specific elements of an education that promotes the health of the soul, then I can move on to step #4 (see above). What I’ve done here is combine biblical principles with basic logic. As I act according to my conclusion, I continually pray for guidance concerning the particulars of carrying out my chosen model of education and ongoing insights about #3. I would like to note that I do not believe homeschooling is the only viable candidate.
It is my view that, when it comes to making certain kinds of decisions, a method applies. We can (and so should) use known biblical principles, our God-given rationality, and our research capabilities. Most would say this is true for making decisions about our physical health, and that we don’t have to wait for special divine direction on whether or not good health should be a priority in our lives. I believe this method also beautifully applies to making choices about soul health, and above all else, education should be about the well-being and improvement of the soul.
Postscript: For parents who only have one, perhaps less-than-ideal education option open to them, I believe the principles I’ve highlighted above could be used as a guide for helping to shape their children’s intellectual development through supplementary learning activities.