Before I take the plunge and attempt to at least begin to answer this important question, I need to tell you where I'm coming from. As unbiased as I'd like to be, the reality is I have a history and it has influenced me. You, too? Good, then you understand. We all have a frame of reference from which we view things. My parents are both what I would call well-educated, perhaps even highly educated, and education was of extreme importance in my home growing up. I should also tell you that my parents became Christians as adults, when I was very young, and their worldview changed slowly over time as the Word of God penetrated their hearts and renewed their minds. My parents are two of the most godly people I know and God has used them mightily. They've taught literally thousands of people the Bible over the last 25 years. However, I'm sure if they could go back in time they would make some changes in the way that I was educated. They might have homeschooled me or gone to greater lengths to root out the feminist ideals that were creeping in from the culture around me. Although my mother was a stay-at-home mom, I was taught that the sky was the limit in terms of what I could do. Maybe could isn't the right word. I was encouraged by my parents to follow my dreams. (I think they both seriously doubted that I would ever get married. See- my husband is living proof of the grace of God!) After 13 years of public school, I attended a private university and then later earned a doctorate from a state university Health Sciences Center. For better or for worse, this is my experience with education.
Despite whatever bias I may have, I am determined to look to the Bible for the educational goals and practices of our homeschool rather than drawing from my own experiences or cultural norms. What does the Bible have to do with education, you may ask?
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16
According to the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, the Bible contains relevant teaching on every subject necessary for the completion or perfection of the believer. So, if education is important for the sanctification of the Christian, then the Bible must not be silent where education is concerned.
I began with an exhaustive concordance search using educational keywords such as teach (211 hits in the NKJ), learn (61 hits), knowledge (161 hits), and instruct (87 hits). Since teaching is foundational to education, and as my children's teacher I'm most concerned with what I'm supposed to be teaching them, I decided to start with the verses on teaching and instruction. In an effort to sort my results, I went through each entry and labled 1.) who is doing the teaching or instructing and 2.) what is being taught.
It should come as no surprise that the primary content being taught in the Bible is that of God's Word- mainly His Law in the Old Testament and the gospel in the New Testament. The teachers were predominantly His prophets and priests in the OT, as well as Israelite parents. In the NT, the teachers are mainly Christ, His disciples, and church elders.
So, what should be the most important subject in our Christian homeschool, if we're being biblical, that is?
Passing on God's Word to our children has to be our top priority!
There are numerous ways in which we can teach God's Word to our children. Here are some of the ways we're trying to accomplish this most important learning objective in our home (I would love to know what you're doing in yours):
1. Simply reading the Bible together. We read one chapter of the Bible together each morning before school.
2. Scripture memory- I love Sonlight's Scripture memory program that coordinates with the Harrow family's We Sing the Word CDs. We're learning Psalm 103 right now and with the CD it's really fun. The kids and I also listen to Jamie Soles' CDs on the Psalms when we're in the car.
3. Catechism- We use Truth and Grace Memory books which come in three volumes. We're still working through volume one with our kids. We do this together with other kids at church on Wednesday nights and then try to drill our kids a couple of times each week at home. Catechism is a way of teaching biblical doctrine through a question and answer format.
4. Bible study- Our kids take Community Bible Study during the school year- we're blessed to have a homeschool class in our city. Each week our three older kids (11, 9, and 7) study the same lesson I do and answer questions over that week's passage of Scripture. They're learning to make observations as they read God's Word!
5. Bible stories- We have several Bible story books that we alternate reading from during family worship. Story Bibles are great because the kids are able to take turns reading and they can easily follow what's going on. My husband's personal favorite is the Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos. My aunt has also given each of our kids a copy of Bible Stories for Children Retold by Geoffrey Horn and Arthur Cavanaugh and illustrated by Arvis Stewart. Often the kids want to read from this one because the others can then follow along, or look at the pictures, in their own copy.
So we've established that teaching God's Word must be the priority of biblical homeschooling, but are we supposed to be teaching anything else to our children? What are some other subjects taught in the Scriptures? Here is a list of subjects from my concordance study of the words teach and instruct organized roughly in order of most frequently occurring to least frequently occurring.
1. Wisdom- the application of God's Word to daily living.
3. History- as a testimony of the greatness of God and what He's done for His people.
4. Craftsmanship- to be used for God's glory in His Tabernacle or Temple.
5. Music- to be used in the worship of the Lord, so also for His glory.
6. Good things- in the context, godly behaviour for young men and women.
7. The inherent good in God's creation
I'll tackle each of these subjects in upcoming posts and then look at biblical prescriptions and examples. Then finally, I'll examine church history to see how the founding fathers viewed biblical education. Hold on, because we're in for quite a ride!