Many years ago I decided to write down my philosophy of education. When I wrote these the boys were quite young…now they are all adults, time flies. Writing out this philosophy helped me be intentional and productive in the time I spent working with the boys. I divided this up into four sections: Foundations of Education, What is Education, Goals for Education, and Methodology (the practical stuff). You may have different goals than I do, you may have chosen a different path to reach your goals. That’s great! The important thing is intentionality. I would encourage each of you to take a couple of hours this month and write your own philosophy of education.
Note: I wrote this over 20 years ago. Originally it was for my own benefit, but eventually I shared it with others. So much of what I have written here was gleaned from books, conversations, and conventions. I wish I could acknowledge all of those sources here, but time and distance makes it impossible. Some of the following is my own thoughts, and portions I owe to the homeschoolers who came before me and shared their wisdom.
BAGDANOV PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
FOUNDATIONS OF EDUCATION
- God is the author of all knowledge and all true education must begin with knowing Him.
- Parents are responsible to God for their children. This is a responsibility that must be considered carefully; how children spend their time, who they spend it with, what they fill their minds with, what activities they participate in, what habits and attitudes they are forming, all of these we will be held accountable for. Let us never forget these are God’s children and he has entrusted to us their care and training.
What is Education?
American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828
EDUCATION: n. The bringing up, as of a child; instructions 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 religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rest on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.
This definition has two distinct advantages over more modern ones. First, education is clearly the responsibility of the parents, and second a religious education and a child’s behavior were deemed more important than academics. To this definition I would add the following.
- Education begins at birth and from there never ends. When we stop learning and growing we stop living. True Christian education embraces all truth. It is neither narrow nor restricted, but is in fact extremely comprehensive. As stated by Susan Schaeffer MacCaulay: “Education extends to all life. The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened. He knows that life will not be long enough to follow everything through fully.
- We educate our children to prepare them for life, not merely to make a living. This sounds simple but it is a profound paradigm shift affecting all of our educational choices. We must expand our thinking to view educating as bringing a child to the point of entering adulthood, well prepared to deal with a complex society.
GOALS FOR EDUCATION
Our first goal is to raise Godly children. Godly children being those who:
- Have an ongoing, personal relationship with God.
- Can accurately handle God’s word.
- Show evidence of their faith in their character.
- Show integrity, compassion, and strength in their relationships.
- Participate in the life of the church.
- Serve others in the area of ministry suited to their gifts.
Our second goal is to give our children a solid academic foundation. Achieving this involves two equally important components. First, we must strive for excellence as teachers. This means setting a good example. Our children must see in us the qualities we want in them. Also, we must give our children’s education top priority in terms of our time, our finances, and our effort. It is our job to provide a rich learning environment that will challenge and stimulate our students. Second, we must establish in our student those habits that will make them life long learners. They must learn to give each task their full attention, to pursue excellence, and to take responsibility for their own learning. When our children begin to take responsibility for their own education much of our job has been competed and we can begin to assume, more and more, the role of facilitator.
Thirdly, we need to open up as many doors as possible for our children. Let me explain. Most of us do not know at 15, 18, or 20 what it is we want to do with the rest of our lives, and without intending to we often make decisions that limit our options or present obstacles in our path. We have, under normal circumstances, 18 years to prepare our children for their futures. We have determined that for our children graduating from high school will mean completing a challenging, well-rounded college prep. program. They may not decide to go to college, but the option will always be available. They may not think they want to pursue a career in the field of science, but they will have the background necessary if they make that choice. They may not have decided to pursue politics, but a solid grounding in civics would benefit us all. The point is a rigorous course of study over a broad subject area will leave our children best prepared to take on the next phase of their lives.
Fourth, we need to bring up children who will be contributing members of our society. This would include the ability to hold a job and to be fiscally responsible. While we don’t want the ability to make a living to be the only goal of education, it is certainly an important one. As adults, much of our day is devoted to work, and we want our children to be well prepared to pursue the career of their choice, to be industrious workers, and responsible for the talents the God has given them.
We also want children who are involved in their communities and are informed, wise voters. In a society as complex and fast moving as ours, this is no small task. Our children will need a solid grounding in history and government to have the background necessary to make informed decisions. They will need a comprehensive science background to understand the issues that will be confronting their generation as science and morality overlap more and more. They will need compassion and wisdom to deal with issues like poverty, abuse and personal responsibility. At one time loyalty to country might have been enough to qualify someone as a good citizen, but that is no longer the case.
Fifth, we want our children’s concern for others to extend beyond America’s borders. There is a world full of fascinating cultures and people to be introduced to and to learn from. We want our children to be geographically aware and to appreciate the rich diversity God has created. Scripture says the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Maybe some of our children will have the privilege of being sent. We hope that each of our children will have the opportunity and the interest to travel, live, and learn in other parts of the world.
Lastly, we realize that for our children to be considered well-educated they must possess the ability to evaluate any situation or idea presented to them in light of Biblical standards and to choose a right course of action. They must then possess the courage and wisdom to act upon those convictions. Without this strength of character, a man can never be considered truly educated.
The first and most crucial step in this process is not killing our children’s love of learning. Sometimes we say the first step is to instill a love of learning, but I believe that it is always there initially. Watching any young child you can’t help but be amazed at the joy they feel at each new discovery and at how quickly they learn and assimilate new information. Yet, sometime in the early years of school, learning becomes boring, stifling, and a drudgery. This is a crime against our kids. We need to do all that we can to keep the love of learning alive, or to rekindle love if it has died.
Second, as parents we must respect our children. This sounds obvious but I think it is another area, that when taken seriously, will revolutionize our approach to education. Our children’s time is as valuable as ours. We shouldn’t waste it with endless workbook pages or pointless assignments. What time we ask our children to invest in formal education should be productive. One of the quickest ways to kill the love of learning is to fill school hours with busy work. Endless worksheets may keep children out of your way, but also communicates your opinion of their intelligence and the worth of their time.
All educators need to respect the intelligence of children. Much of what is written for children in the name of education is insulting at worst, bland and boring at best. Subjecting children to dry, stuffy textbooks and calling it education is shameful. Ruth Beechick explains, ‘Some educators’ questions whether textbooks, even at their best, could ever do the job. The very nature of textbooks is to present information that is predigested, pre-thought, pre-analyzed, and pre-synthesized. A steady diet of such books deprives children of the joy of original thought. It turns them off to learning.
The alternative is to introduce children to a wide variety of living books and original sources. There are so many options: classic literature, wonderful autobiographies, original documents, and great non-fiction works. These kinds of books should make up the core of our curriculum. From infancy onward we should be sharing with our children wonderful books that challenge their thinking and engage their hearts and minds in meaningful dialog. Think in terms of spreading before your children a lavish feast that will delight and nourish their minds and souls. The world is a fascinating place and that is what our children need to be introduced to. We don’t need to know everything (or anything); we just need to join our children on the journey of discovery.
A large portion of learning should be done beyond the walls of our classrooms or homes. Our children should be spending large quantities of time exploring nature, art museums, science centers, factories, libraries etc. Reading about the germination of a seed can never replace growing a plant. We need to, whenever possible, flesh out our studies with real hands on learning. We need to expand our view of education to include all of the activities of our day. The trip to the post office, soccer practice, making a meal for a hurting family, these are all learning experiences we need to take advantage of.
Our curriculum should also include work. Our children should be contributing members of our family, taking on some of the responsibilities of keeping a household running. Children will gain a strong sense of belonging as they become an integral part of the family unit. Chores will also prepare them for the realities of life when they move beyond our homes. Being able to do laundry, cook a meal, change a tire, are all necessary skills that should not be overlooked when we determine what our children should learn by the age of 18.
Lastly, our children should be involved in some area of service. Volunteering at the library, helping coach a soccer team, working in the nursery during church, in some way they need to be giving of themselves to others. If we establish this habit in their youth, both they and the people they help will benefit for a lifetime.
We have come to the decisions that the best way for us to accomplish what we want for our children is to do it in a non-traditional setting. The family structure seems made to deliver the kind of education we have been talking about. It can incorporate the many elements of academic instruction, character development, and opportunities for work and service naturally. Each child can be treated as the unique individual that they are. For us home schooling has been a great adventure in learning. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.