Jesus says in Mark 12:28–31 that we should help our “neighbor” “love God” with all their “mind.” Since our family is our nearest neighbor, this would include wisely choosing how our children are to be educated. When it comes to choosing an education for a child, there are two important questions that need to be considered.
- What is the purpose of a child’s education? Paul says in Ephesians 6:4 that parents should “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The ultimate goal of all learning should be helping a child mature into a godly person who loves the Lord and lives a life of wisdom in relationship with the Lord. This is the biblical principle.
- What is the best method to achieve the biblical principle? When it comes to understanding the Bible, it is vital to distinguish between principles and methods. There are often multiple methods for accomplishing a biblical principle. Some parents become legalistic and do not distinguish between principles and methods when it comes to such things as how to educate a child. What we mean by this is that some (often well meaning parents) will add a Bible verse to their method as if their method was the only way of obeying God’s principle. For example, the Bible teaches that we should help our children learn God’s Word and sing to the Lord. Those are principles. The methods, however, can vary. There are many Bible translations and methods for studying the Bible. There are many kinds of worship music and ways to sing to the Lord. Legalism is when I take my method and say that all other methods of obeying God’s principle in wrong or ungodly.
While raising five children, my wife, Grace, and I have been saying for two decades of ministry that parents need to evaluate each child’s education each and every year. Every child is different. Every year the needs of the child, context of the family, and educational opportunities can change, so changes may need to be made. For us, this means speaking with our children about their education, praying with our children about their education, investigating options every year, visiting schools to see what options we have, and also considering such things as lifestyle changes we’d need to make for our schedule, costs, and vacation times to work out with five children spread out by nine years.
Here are the basic options available for educating a child, with a few things to consider regarding each:
- Home school. This option can work well if the family is set up in such a way that at least one of the parents can take the primary responsibility to choose good curriculum, ensure the child is learning, and make sure that this occurs in such a way that other children or the marriage are not neglected.
- Christian school. This option can work well if there is a good school nearby that works with the lifestyle of the family and can be afforded by the family.
- Non-Christian private school. This option can work well if the parents are committed to also being actively involved in the education of the child to ensure that they are also growing spiritually and not being confused biblically, if the family can afford the cost.
- Public school. This option can work well if the curriculum is not opposed to Christian faith and doesn’t put the child in a hostile environment. It is important that the parents are willing to be actively involved in the school to know what is actually happening. A public school system is often able to provide specialized education for children with disabilities and special needs that smaller schools simply cannot provide.
- A hybrid of various options. Education options vary widely from country to country, and even from state to state in the United States. In the age of co-operative learning centers, networks, online educational opportunities, and more, some parents choose to get creative and use a combination of the various methods as is best for each of their children.
The bottom line is this: no matter which educational option you choose for your children, parents must be the child’s primary influence and instructors. Every school option will have some ungodly aspects, so no matter how the children are educated, the parents have to be actively involved and take responsibility for the education.
How were you educated? What were the strengths and weaknesses of how you were educated?