by Inge Cannon
Think back to your school years as a child or a teen. What lessons were most efficiently learned—the ones you gleaned from a textbook in response to a scheduled assignment or the ones where you were desperate to find answers to a problem you needed to solve at work, at home, at church, or in your personal life? As Christian home educators we should not allow the traditional credit line-up to interfere with real learning or with the requirements of biblical discipleship.
Scriptural Definition of Knowledge
When exploring God’s requirements for what our young people learn, it is important to establish a Scriptural definition of knowledge. II Peter 1:5-8 provides a clear description for an educational sequence which will honor God: “. . . Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(KJV)
Knowledge, then, is explored information within the boundaries of faith and character development. There are some things God commands His children not to know. He told Adam and Eve that they were not to know evil (Genesis 2:17), and the Apostle Paul affirmed this instruction to the Roman Christians when he wrote, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” Romans 16:19b (KJV)
Learning the true meaning of knowledge requires a wise and understanding heart, which is developed when students allow wisdom to teach them through life’s experiences. The book of Proverbs makes this strong appeal. Reasoning skills are strengthened as analogies are used to identify relationships. Many spiritual truths are developed through analogy, and Jesus often used this means of teaching His disciples.
Each subject matter area that comes under consideration in a Christian home school should be examined in light of Scriptural directives. The following list is broader than a mere high school credential; it seeks to define the “end product” of an educational program as Scripture would affirm the goals. These are mastery areas young people should accomplish sometime during their preparation for adulthood.
Regarding communication skills, God’s Word commands that “we minister grace to the hearers …” with our words (Ephesians 4:29). We are reminded as well that we will “Give account for every idle word …” (Matthew 12:36), and that our words must be precise in sending forth a clear signal. Thus, we know that students should master grammar and syntax, the ability to express themselves with the written and spoken word, to be persuasive and instructive or encouraging as situations demand. Because technology enhances our ability to produce the written word, every student should master computer keyboard skills.
Where does the realm of literature fit in? Familiarity with great writings will help a student internalize excellent, descriptive means of expressing himself. Many people ask, “What makes a classic? A work that has stood the test of time and is true to Biblical themes in dealing accurately with life’s challenges is an excellent threshold point for evaluation. He who walks with great men will become wise. Reading is the most accessible and powerful means we have to allow students the regular company of great individuals.
Scripture explicitly commands that we know history: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we … might have hope” Romans 15:4 (KJV). We gain hope or confidence as we learn how God operates His universe and understand His ways in dealing with mankind. Because history is really “HIS STORY,” it should begin with the Scriptures—the Old Testament.
Israel’s history offers a clear demonstration of when people experience blessing and when they experience cursing. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” the Psalmist reminds us Psalm 13:12 (KJV). Against this backdrop, study the rise and fall of each civilization according to the pattern of Israel’s relationship with Jehovah. Then examine U.S. history in light of that same pattern. Such an approach gives context and understanding (developing wisdom) to the study and removes the student from the dreadful futility of memorizing meaningless facts.
The next logical place to move a Scripturally oriented educational credential is church history. How is God dealing with man during this present age? Begin with Acts, move through the epistles (examining the times and places where these churches were located), and culminate the study by relating the seven churches referenced in Revelation to the major periods in church history. Current events should be correlated to Scripture, and the development of missions must be explored in this context (forming a meaningful basis for the study of geography). The final phase of understanding plumbs the depths of prophecy.
The prophet Isaiah described the three-branch structure of government long before Christ was born: “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” Isaiah 33:22 (KJV). As you study government, examine the U.S. Constitution in relationship to biblical principles or foundational references.
That “He is before all things … by Him all things consist” Colossians 1:17 (KJV) forms the rationale and protective framework for the study of science. Honor the limitations of science by formulating a precise definition. Then create a study from hypothesis to evaluation. Understand how thinking with analogies enhances creativity in inventions. Skills in taxonomy will promote understanding of the orderliness of God’s creation and build a foundation for an effective apologetic to refute evolutionary thinking.
The primary use of mathematics that is corroborated in Scripture is accurate business dealings. “A false balance is abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight” Proverbs 11:1 (KJV). Character development and reputation (a “good name”) is inextricably tied to a person’s application of proper stewardship. In conventional curriculum, the scientific expressions of higher mathematics often preclude consumer and business math. The development of the “higher” skills is by no means wrong; in fact, it is an expression of an exact science. But responsibility in a man’s business and home must not be ignored to make room for trigonometry and calculus.
God promised to make his people “the head and not the tail … “ Deuteronomy 28:13 (KJV) if they would honor His principles in matters of borrowing, lending, and investing. Young people must learn how the “borrower” becomes “servant to the lender” Proverbs 22:7 (KJV), and cause/effect relationships regarding debt and prosperity need to be carefully analyzed.
Art and Music
Art and music are the language of the spirit. God gave mankind these means of glorifying His name. The Psalmist describes a heart that is right with God through a musical analogy: “He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God; many shall see it and fear and shall trust in the Lord” Psalm 40:3 (KJV).
The standard for what to study and what to produce is defined in Philippians 4:8: “Whatsoever things are true … honest … just… pure … lovely … of good report; If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (KJV). We honor God when the expressions of our hearts and our being are consistent with His character. Therefore, any study of the arts must be limited to those means and expressions which draw the believer to become more Christ-like and demonstrate God’s character to a world that doesn’t know Him. Young people must develop their gifts so that they are not merely consumers of the arts but producers of excellence.
Finally, don’t forget to teach your young ladies how to be “keepers at home” (see Titus 2:4-5 and Proverbs 31) and equip your young men to support their own households (see I Timothy 5:8 and Proverbs 24:27). Honoring your son’s or daughter’s individual bent and following God’s direction will round out the picture, allowing you to craft your program to God’s design for your family.
The 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster earmarks four necessary components in every person’s education: “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.” Such an education demands more than the earning of a list of credits; it demands mature understanding of God’s precepts as they impact every subject.