Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What is True Education? by JulieBeth Lamb

What is real education? Well, the Noah Webster's 1828 American dictionary of the English language says it is the bringing up, as of a child. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.

To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable. As homeschooling parents we need to remember that education means training up our children in the way they should go, spiritually, socially and educationally, in that order. Our goal is raising up our children to be Godly, hard working, socially responsible, good neighbors and friends who are literate and have good sense.

Knowing God is the number one goal for our children. I want them to really know God, to understand Him, who He is and always has been, in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and today. It is important for them to build a real faith of their own, not just out of obedience to us.

Daily devotional time, including Bible reading, prayer and a quiet listening time, is a habit best learned at a young age. Family Bible time gives a safe forum for asking questions and really delving into the Word. Catechisms of the faith teach children the fundamentals as a foundation for the adult decision for the Lord we are all praying our children will make.

Hard Work prepares a child to be successful in every segment of life. As an employee, husband/wife, business person, church leader or friend it is necessary to work hard for those activities to flourish. It is our responsibility to train our children to work hard, respect authority, follow the rules, think of others, be prompt, go above and beyond, use common sense and thoughtfulness in every endeavor and do every thing as unto the Lord, for His glory.

Service to Others gives children a sense of themselves and that they are an integral part of this big world they live in. We need to be giving to others because they are important, and children can serve because they have been given gifts by God to share with those around them. Some of our children will run with this concept and organize large scale service projects, but the child who rakes the leaves in an elderly neighbor’s yard is sharing God’s grace is an equally significant way.

Citizenship means so much to many of us homeschool parents because it is our involvement in our communities, local government, lobbying and campaigning that has bought our homeschool freedoms and keep them secure. We need to include our children at every age, not to brainwash them to believe what we say they should think, but to help them understand that each person is important in our democracy.

Children need to understand the founding fathers’ principles and reasons for setting up a representative government. The Biblical principles that guide a Christian’s understanding and response to our government need to be ingrained in our children. Visits to state legislators, the courthouse, and an election office are valuable for every age.

Cultural Literacy doesn’t mean our children understand all the teen slang or have read every popular novel. It does mean that they can read books and have conversations fully understanding all the geographical, literary, historic and cultural references. I don’t care if my children can recite all of the state capitals, but I do want them to understand that when a person says they come from the coast of Maine that it is a cold climate full of small fishing towns. And it isn’t necessary that they listen to opera sound tracks all day long, but they need to know that opera is sung with a strong voice and often in a foreign language.

Broad experiences with different locations, art, literature, music, and cultures under the safe care of parents who can interpret them in the light of scripture will bring that element of cultural literacy to your children.

Reading Good Books is the backbone of a quality education. For little ones it means reading aloud as a family, when they get older they can participate in the reading. Delving into a classic will take a child to a different world and time, introducing them to unique characters and beautiful language. High quality abridged versions and even good videos allow more of these stories to be shared. “Every age has its blind spots. The antidote to this condition is to read old books. The people in other times had different blind spots than we do and the light of their understanding reveals the dark spaces in our own. That is what a true education should do” C.S. Lewis.

Appreciating the Arts can be a daunting task if we allow it to be. Learning to love the beauty that God has blessed man with in art, music and culture doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We don’t need to be experts to help our children grow in the arts. Today there are many tools for homeschoolers who desire them. But simple tasks of listening to different types of music, looking at a variety of artwork, and discussing them in the light of God’s Word is enough to give our children an appreciation for the arts and those who have been gifted to share them with us.

Suitable Book Learning IS homeschooling to many families. While this is a necessary part of preparing our children to live and work in this world and allows Christians to be a good witness, it is at the bottom of my priority list. This can be an intimidating part for many, trying to find just the right curriculum. Colorful catalogs and well meaning friends can just make it more difficult.

It is so special to help our children learn to read and write, understand mathematical principles and grasp the wonders of creation and our providential history.
Sometimes it takes extensive trial and error to determine what type of education works best for our students and their teachers. We need to find explicitly Christian materials that give our children glimpses of God’s greatness in creating language, numbers, creation, colors, everything! It is important not to exasperate our children with unrealistic expectations.

Training up a child in the way he should go doesn’t just mean learning obedience to God, but also growing in the path God has chosen for him allowing for the bents he has been blessed with. If you are having trouble choosing a suitable educational style and appropriate materials for your family, talk to lots of moms and dads. Choose those who have been homeschooling for several years and have been successful in the long term. Take what they say and use whatever works for you and discard what doesn’t apply to your family. You will begin to see a picture of what is best suited for your family homeschool.

There is no magic homeschool bullet that will make your children smart and lovely. But our God of grace has good plans for our children that are higher than ours, plans for a future and a hope. Lots of quantity time from both mom and dad with our children, and even more quantity time on our knees talking with and listening to our Lord will help us have the wisdom we need to understand those plans and be partners with God in preparing our children for them.

JulieBeth Lamb thanks God for allowing these words to flow through her and prays they are a blessing to others as God has allowed them to bless her. She and her husband Rex are the leaders of a homeschool group in Oakdale, California. They have been homeschooling their five children since 1993 and have three still to
graduate (until May 2008 when there will only be two left in school). Contact
her at or 209-838-6062.