A child plays with educational toys.

Education for Life

Raising a godly child in an ungodly world can be a daunting task. But be confident—God has a plan that assures your success.

The pregnancy test is positive. Suddenly, you are responsible for another human being, for making decisions that will impact the rest of His or Her life. Start with the Bible.

Having a baby is one of the happiest, yet most sobering, experiences in life. As a mother, you impact the physical, emotional and spiritual health of your child. When I was pregnant I changed what I ate and how I behaved. I took my prenatal vitamins and got regular checkups. And I read all the “what ifs,” just in case I’d need to make a spur of the moment decision during his first moments of life. I wanted to be prepared.

After my son was born I researched how to raise a healthy baby: the best foods and times to feed him; whether or not to immunize him; the safest crib mattress and toys. The list went on and on. What I didn’t research was the Bible—the most important baby manual of all time.

Bless the Unborn

God knows each and every one of us before we are placed in our mothers’ wombs. And He gives parents the love and knowledge they need to care for their children.

In the book of Judges, God spoke to Samson’s mother about what to do when she was pregnant. “You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death” Judges 13:7 NIV.

Samson hadn’t even been conceived and God was helping his mother care for her child. God is not bound by time as we are, He knows the future and He knew exactly what Samson would need to fulfill his purpose in life, just as He knows what your child will need.

The story is not unique. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” Jeremiah 1:5. And through King David: “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb” Psalm 139:13 NIV.

What you can do: Pray that God will bless and keep safe your unborn child and give you wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Lay hands on your abdomen and pray. Anoint it with oil.

Begin Training in the Womb

Learning begins before we are born and continues until our very last breath. In utero children can feel pain, develop preferences for specific foods and hear voices and music. Research shows newborn babies know their mothers’ voices and respond to music that women listened during their pregnancies.

Three thousand years ago Solomon wisely said, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6 NKJV.

Imagine how beneficial it would be if you begin that training while carrying your child in your womb.

What you can do: Read favorite Bible verses aloud daily. Listen to Christian music and sing hymns as you go about your day. Pray and talk to your baby about Jesus and His love.

Train up a Child

The foundation for all teaching begins with love and respect—for God, for His Living Word, for the child toward herself and others. As your child grows, the best advice is to parent deliberately. What does this mean? Train your child in a methodical way.

Begin reading Scripture to children as infants. Even a young child can understand the Scripture: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’ ” Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV.

Raising children shouldn’t be about crisis management, but rather purposeful training. With your spouse, consider and discuss scenarios likely to occur while raising your child. Talk about how to respond. This way you may avoid dealing with a screaming three-year-old in the heat of desire for a toy, or at least have a plan on how to respond.

When your child is at the age of understanding, encourage good behavior and self-control. Always hope for the best behavior, but be ready to respond quickly and consistently when bad behavior occurs.

Discipline with a calm spirit. If the behavior warrants more attention—if your child harms another or his actions are repeatedly willful or spiteful—remember to pray with him before and after disciplining.

The good news is if you are attentive to teaching godly behavior while children are young, many lessons are learned before the age of three or four.

What you can do: Seek God and His Word for guidance in determining a loving method of training up your child. For help, look to Bible-based resources and mature Christian parents with older children. Attend church regularly and enroll your children in Sunday School and Christian youth activities.

Some verses that help us understand how to train our children:

  • Ephesians 6:4 NIV– “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
  • Deuteronomy 11:19 – “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
  • Proverbs 1:8 – “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.”
Handprints on construction paper are displayed on a wall.

God's Helper

Dr. Ben Carson, an internationally known neurosurgeon, owes his success to a praying mother who cared about his education.

Through his early school years, Ben was a struggling student in poverty-stricken Detroit. His mother, Sonya Carson, insisted that her sons could have successful lives. She asked God how to help them—and God answered.

One day she announced a new policy God gave her. The boys could watch only two TV shows a week. To fill time, they were told to read library books and give her written reports.

“What we didn’t know was that she couldn’t read,” Ben says. “She put check marks on the papers and highlighted parts.”

Sonya’s friends warned her that the boys would grow in resentment toward her. Instead, Ben made a discovery.“In those books, I could be anybody. I could do anything,” he says.

He read about people of great accomplishment and made a connection.

“I came to understand that I could take control of my destiny. I could change. It was incredibly liberating for me.”

A Good Education

Children are always learning and parents are their first and most important teachers and advocates. Model Christian behavior to your children. Make family a priority. Show your spouse and children how much you love and respect them by keeping them at the top of your priority list just after God. And don’t allow a school system to dictate all the educational lessons your children learn—or fail to learn.

Education has been the key to success and prosperity for many generations. A good education resulted in a good job. Mix in a strong work ethic, communication skills, ingenuity and perhaps courage, and you may get “rags to riches” results.

The modern school system has institutionalized education. Yet each year, parents struggle with how to provide the best education for their children. As the world increases in complexity, making that decision becomes more difficult. Key insights into God and His purpose can provide guidance.

Big Education, Big Business

Education has become a trillion-dollar industry. The centralization and concentration of decisions and policy-making has accelerated over the last 50 years. State, federal and teacher-union control has never been greater. Large textbook publishers work with only a few large states, limiting textbook choices for all other states. Yet U.S. students continue to fall in global rankings, coming in 17th among 50 countries, as reported by The Economist Intelligence Unit in 2012.

Counter currents hint that new options and better results are available for parents, children and communities that demand them and work to develop them.

Historic Foundations

The apprentice model had been the primary learning mode over the last two millennia. Students learned as they worked with a mentor, an expert. Artists learned from artists and tailors from tailors. Even subjects like philosophy and law were mentor-based. These were hands-on active apprenticeship.

In the 1800s, the ground-breaking “Sunday school” programs hosted by inner city churches arose. They helped youth whose families had migrated into the cities for employment and were one impetus for the current model of public education.

Industrial methods also influenced public education during the Industrial Revolution. Schools began to reflect the efficiency of the factory. Students were divided by age and worked on the same topic at the same time. Subjects focused on those skills needed for industry, business and commerce. The 3 Rs—reading, writing and arithmetic—took preeminence over art, languages, philosophy and music. Standardized testing, standardized textbooks and curriculums for entire school districts or beyond emerged. Education moved to a “one-size-fits-all model.”

Today this model is functioning less effectively and efficiently.

A Changing Worldview

Changes within our culture are one of the central reasons for today’s education decline. In 18th and 19th centuries a biblical worldview and value system was dominant. The last 100-plus years have seen the pendulum swing, with humanism and other philosophies supplanting and replacing biblical context for education. This change has impacted societal views of family, values, community and personal responsibility. The price tag has been high. The U.S. education system spends more per student than any other nation, $11,000 annually in elementary grades and $12,000 in high school.

As believers in a creative, loving God, we can put into practice the profound principles innate in our faith to make education holistic, vibrant and dynamic.

God's Method

While we do not often think of God as a teacher, He has always been “homeschooling” the human race. God taught by giving the 10 Commandments, the Law and teaching Abraham that He is faithful. Jesus taught in parables, stories and through flawless role modeling. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit. He tells us that the Spirit “will teach you all things.”

Proverbs suggests that God sometimes hides many of his works. As we explore, we discover the complexity and intricacies that God has laid out in the world. When we realize the detail of God’s work, we glorify Him as we understand His majesty and wonder. One example comes from the natural sciences. Individuals have “discovered” several new elements of the periodic table. God has known about them all along, but we have only found them over the last century.

God allows us to discover truth. This suggests that He does not see learning as a passive exercise where information is “poured” into empty heads. It is more like exercise. This truth is inferred in Proverbs 27:17, “as iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another.”

No One Left Behind

During biblical times, people learned under mentors or apprenticed. In this way, rabbis trained the best and brightest students in their early teens. But the men who would become Jesus’ disciples did not make the cut. They were the leftovers, or as we might say it today, “not the sharpest tools in the shed.” The Gospels detail how Jesus’ called his disciples, picking from among men already pursuing their trades. Why did Jesus chose men that other rabbis had rejected as unqualified? “The Lord looks at the heart” says 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV.

God sees value in every person. This is at the heart of the Gospel. God values little children and rough fishermen and all in between. He understands that all need to learn the ways and thoughts of God.

So regardless of the potential or deficiencies of the student, God still values them. He treats each person as a unique and valuable being with a purpose.

The current system is designed for children who learn well through reading and memorization. Children who do not learn in this manner can get the message that they are second rate. Injecting God’s views into education helps us to identify who our children are. Trying to mold children into our “perfect image” rather than discovering and celebrating the wonders of how God has created them misses God’s purpose.

Here are a few websites where you can learn more about various approaches to education.

home-school.com. A rich resource for info about homeschooling.
aacs.org. The site of the American Association of Christian Schools.
accsedu.org. The site of the Association of Classical & Christian Schools.
publiccharters.org. The site of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Finding the Good

  1. Each student is worthy of respect.
  2. Each student is unique.
  3. Since students learn best through differing methods. We should accommodate our system rather than press the student harder to fit the mold.
  4. Students will gravitate to some topics or subjects or be gifted in special niches. We should think of ways to facilitate these interactions.
  5. Bumps in the educational road may be clues to a student’s gifts and talents, rather than problems to be fixed.
  6. Learning happens in relationship. How do we promote interaction especially between generations or role models?
  7. God loves your kids more than you or any human can. He has a plan for their life. Your role as a parent is to help prepare them for living fruitful lives as Christ followers.
  8. Take advantage of those teachable moments when kids are ready to learn.
  9. Balance spiritual and academic lessons with a healthy amount of household chores, civic responsibility and caring for others by volunteering.
  10. Instill in your kids “rugged individualism” and the ”pioneering spirit” that made this country great.
  11. Put Christ first and model Christ-like behavior.