As I have been working on my series how to choose a curriculum, I’ve composed, but not posted a series of posts speaking about several different, popular methods of home education. These may still be posted at some point in time, but as we thought and prayed we realized that it is much more important that we look at the method of education that is revealed to us in God’s Word.
We believe that whatever God commands in His Word in regard to education (or anything else for that matter), Christians are obligated to obey. What Christians are not obligated to do is to take our opinion or interpretation of God’s Word and adopt them as their own.
Does God tell us how to educate?
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (emphasis mine)
If you believe that God requires people to be educated, then you must also believe that God’s Word equips and prepares us to educate. The best method for educating children will not be found apart from God’s Word.
Who does God command to educate children?
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph.6:4
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. Deut.6:7-9
For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice Gen. 18:19 (God’s inspired explanation for choosing Abram to be the Father of His chosen people.)
My son, hear the instruction of thy father, And forsake not the law of thy mother. Proverbs 1:8
My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; Proverbs 3:1
Hear, my son, the instruction of a father, And attend to know understanding: For I give you good doctrine; Forsake ye not my law. Proverbs 4:1-2
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes saw, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but make them known unto thy children and thy children’s children; I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. Deut. 4:9-10
My son, observe the commandment of your father And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; Proverbs 6:20
Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: ~ Psalm 78:1-7
When it comes to children, God clearly commands parents to teach, instruct and train them. God also gives responsibility for education to church leaders. However, this teaching and instruction is almost** always within the context of the family or discipleship of adults.
**We can not think of any prescriptive teaching where this instruction comes outside of these contexts, but are always open to where we have missed important Biblical teaching.
What are parents to teach their children?
It doesn’t seem that there is much disagreement in Christian circles on what the Bible requires parents to teach their children. It seems the disagreement comes on the who and the how, so we’ll hit this briefly.
I’ve posted before about the key themes in the Book of Proverbs and how it is a Christian’s manual for education. It is a book inspired by God and dedicated to a father’s instruction to his son. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.” ~Proverbs 1:7. And a summary of what parents are required to teach their children in Deuteronomy 6 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
How does God command parents to educate their children?
The Deuteronomy 6:7-9 passage is one that is most clearly prescriptive:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
and we see this born out elsewhere in scripture:
That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. ~Joshua 4:6-7
When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. ~Deut. 6:20-21
When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. Joshua 4:21
And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of Jehovah’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshiped. Ex. 12:26-27
The way that God commands parents to educate their children is to talk with them, to converse with them ALL THE TIME, to be available when their children have questions. Parents should be instructing their children throughout the day, during their daily activities and in all the circumstances of life.
What about Jesus?
Some argue that we should look at how Jesus was educated as a pattern for how we should educate our children. (I think that this idea may be born out of modern ideas that education is the solution to bad behavior. Jesus wasn’t prefect because He had a good education, He was perfect because He was God.) Just as we wouldn’t use how others treated Jesus as a standard for how we should treat others, neither should we base our method of education on how Jesus was educated. We should rather look at how Jesus educated others.
Not surprisingly, Jesus educated His disciples and those around Him in the pattern and method set forth in Deuteronomy 6 and other Old Testament passages. Jesus taught and instructed as He walked by the way, as He ate, as He drank, as He lived. He engaged people in discussion and conversation. He was available to answer questions. He developed relationships and used every opportunity, every circumstance to point people toward His Father, to challenge them and encourage them to more faithful, Godly living.
It is interesting to note that nowhere in Scripture do we see Jesus, the most qualified Bible teacher of all time, take children out of the context of the family, even for a short period of time, to teach and instruct them. We do see parents bringing their children with them as they (the parents) listened to and sat under Jesus’ teaching.
The importance of relationship.
We hesitate to even mention this because we are not aware of chapter and verse that commands it, rather we believe that it is taught and demonstrated throughout all Scripture. So examine for yourself whether this is true and if we are wrong then please ignore this section and let us know so that we can edit to speak Biblically.
God’s normal choice for intense teaching and instruction is within relationships. God has a personal relationship with His people, He sends His Spirit to dwell in us and teach us what we need to know. Jesus selected 12 men to have a close and intense relationship with Him during the years of His ministry. God desires children to be taught and instructed within the context of familial relationships. God commands all Christians to ‘make disciples’ of the nations. Biblically, Christianity is relational and teaching is relational.
So what is God’s method for education?
God commands parents to teach their children all about Him, His Words, His works and His world. They are commanded to do this throughout the day and in all situations and circumstances as they walk through life with their children. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus set the example for us by following the pattern for education that is given in Deuteronomy 6 as He instructed and taught His disciples and those who came to learn from Him.
What does this mean for us?
As Christians saved by grace we are not our own, we are bought with a price and we should seek to submit our will, thoughts and ideas to God’s Word, in this area as in all others. As we look at and evaluate the many curricula available, we must measure it by God’s standard and weigh it against the methods revealed in His Word.
On Thursday, I’m going to be posting our family’s curriculum choices and you will probably be able to point to many things and say, “That does not fit with God’s method for education”. You will be right. We are still learning and growing. We are still trying to figure out how to apply God’s standard to all of life. We are still fighting against a world, both secular and Christian, that holds up standards for us that are not based on God’s Word and often we are still trying to measure up to those standards. We do not know it all, so take what you can use and ditch that which doesn’t fit with God’s prescription. If you have Biblical wisdom that you are willing to share with us, we thank you for taking the time to invest in us and to help us to grow in Godliness.
If you haven’t already, please read “Disagreeing with Love”. We welcome discussion and dissenting opinions that are based on God’s Word. We pray that God will use others who have better understanding of His Word to sharpen our understanding and help us to become more like Him.
Other posts about choosing a curriculum: