November/December, 1997 Volume XII Number 9

Take control of your children's education

by Rick Livingston

Since education is seen as the answer to everything in our culture, perhaps parents should get a handle on answering some basic questions about it. Particularly, the parents' point of view and active involvement are critical, whether utilizing public, private, or home schooling. Considering the five following questions may assist parents to have better control of their children's education:
First: What does God want our children to learn?
There are three elements of education to which the Proverbs writers refers, they are knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
Knowledge is exposure to information.
Understanding is interpretation of the information.
And wisdom is application of the information.
God intends for our children to be acquainted with knowledge, understanding and wisdom that is edifying (Deut. 6:4-9) and that glorifies Him (1 Cor. 10:31).
He wants our children to learn history, home management, science, gardening, art, business, mathematics, industrial crafts, grammar, literature, music, sports, health, and all other areas of knowledge from His point of view (Mat 11:29).
For example, they should learn that legitimate art should reflect good taste and spiritual concord (2 Cor. 6:15). They should learn the underlying currents of history from Scriptural perspectives (Deut. 28) such as the relationship of the fall of Rome to the loss of family cohesiveness, the decline of work ethic, and the general acceptance of immorality (sound familiar?). They should learn science as a part of an ordered whole, not a series of Darwinian events (Ps 8:3). And they should learn home management as a high profession and call, equal in weight to all the combined bread-winner occupations, and more than just how to make institutionalized cinnamon toast with 28 other Junior High girls.
Knowledge divorced from God's wisdom is certainly vain (Jer 9:23; 1 Cor. 1:19-21). As my wife Patty says, "God wants our children to learn to love and serve God." I do not think she meant to restrict the time of that activity to Sunday morning between 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Especially, God wants our children to learn from the godly influence and example of their teachers, particularly their parents (Deut.. 11:18-20; 2 Thess. 3:9).
Second: What does God not want our children to learn?
God does not want our children to learn about what some call the "real world," such as R-rated movies, condoms, divorce, child-abuse, drugs, and toleration for "alternate lifestyles."
While God does not want His people to be ignorant of evil and thereby vulnerable to its snares, He also does not desire us to become Ph.D.'s of "evilology" through a multitude of sensitivity classes on tolerance (Rom. 16:19). The culture today encourages young people in numerous settings and methods to embrace evil rather than to hate--dare I use the word?--evil (Prov. 8:13).
In fact, society admires someone who is not upset with abortion, evolution, homosexual "advances," condom distribution, historical revisionism, PG. rated language and so on. In our day, good, that is the Bible, has been demoted as evil, and evil (books such as Heather Has Two Mommies) have been promoted as good. George Orwell called such twisting "newspeak." And Paul the apostle referred to men in the perilous last days as those who would despise values and people who stand for what is good (2 Tim. 3:1-3).
By the way, wholesome faith in God is the true "real world."
Third: How can I motivate my children to learn?
Mark Twain once remarked, "I never let school interfere with my education."
There are numerous ways to develop enthusiasm for learning. Children really start out with a natural God-given curiosity about their environment. Our job as parents is to prevent apathy from setting in.
Learning should never be allowed to become stale or legalistic. It must remain fresh and relevant. This means that our first responsibility is to develop our own interests in learning and make our enthusiasm contagious enough for our children to catch it. Don't worry if you are without a lot of academic training. The wisest people are learners themselves, not so-called experts (Prov. 1:5).
Next we need to make learning more interesting by tying it into everyday life. There is nothing like bringing money into the equation to help a student who is attempting to master some mathematical basics.
Then, some technical subjects for which our children have little interest can be doled out in small doses.
Don't forget to honor meritorious labor. Incentives and rewards help many a breadwinner labor through a wearisome job and can encourage children as well.
Be aware that some subjects may not be developmentally appropriate for a particular child even though some book says Johnny should be reading by age five. Some of our own older children started reading later than others, but they have all over time become avid readers.
Last, don't neglect the TLC (tender loving care), that is, attention and involvement, especially from a father can do wonders in encouraging learning. Mothers too often are stuck with an over-burden in this area.
Fourth: How can I deal with a perfectionist child?
By being perfect yourself, of course. Oh, you're like the rest of us? Then help him to be like us mortals also.
Teach your child the value of failing (Prov. 24:16).
Look at Edison, it took him a thousand tries before he invented the light bulb that helps you to read at night.
The New York Yankees had to lose about 60-70 baseball games on their way to becoming world champions last year.
To write a good poem, one must cross out many words.
I imagine most great chefs burned some oatmeal along the way.
When your child fails, help him to see the bigger picture as described above. Comfort him and let him appropriately express his frustrations and negative thoughts. Give him some "time out" from a disturbing task. He can finish it later. And pray together. This allows him to bring God into his assignments.
Fifth: How can I encourage my child to read?
Get your hunting rifle out and aim it carefully at the Cyclops in your living room called a TV. POW!
Oh, you have control over that unruly beast?
Good, then no problem. Or maybe the problem is denial. If both parents can't agree on precisely which programs are acceptable, a good start is to allow the mate who is less addicted to set the standard.
Sadly, very little enjoyable and interesting out-loud reading of good books takes place in homes these days. Read the Frog and Toad series to your younger children and Pilgrim's Progress to your older children to inspire motive, and encourage fellowship. Take your children to the library and encourage them to develop good discriminating skills in selecting literature.
Finally, there are good book lists available such as in Honey For A Child's Heart and Books Children Love.
Oh, and read yourself. Children are great imitators. When my youngest child Heidi was one year old she was already reading like the rest of us, albeit sometimes upside down (a different perspective, that's all).

Copyright © 1997 AFLM