Education options for Christians – Part 4

Children are not created equal

62343watq4di13iPublic and private schooling makes assumptions about the ability of children to maintain pace with other children.  The assumption is that children at a certain age are roughly equally able to perform to a specified statistical standard.  Typically the specified standard is based on testing of a group of children and selecting the median or mean of the aptitudes of these children as the desired bar children should be able to meet.

This approach makes learning tedious and mechanical for the child.  Learning that is tedious and mechanical does a great job of eliminating the desire to learn.  If you make it a goal that your children will enjoy learning, they will learn outside of the classroom, and just because they enjoy it.  This is a far better outcome than achieving an arbitrary standard by an arbitrary time.

In the statistics based classroom, there will be children in the class who are able to exceed the statistical bar easily and others who don’t “fit the mold” who will need additional help to understand the concepts being taught.  In a formal school environment, there is generally not great scope to customize curriculum for the needs of the individual children in the class, and generally, it is not necessary to do so.  However, when your child is falling behind significantly in class, you as parent must bear the responsibility for their education.

By removing struggling children from a formal school environment we eliminate their sense of failure when they cannot keep up

This doesn’t mean that they must be home schooled, but as the parent their education is your responsibility and you cannot expect a public or private school to simply own the issues your child has and resolve them.  They may in fact be very helpful and you may not need to intervene.  However, as a parent you have a number of options to manage this situation, ranging from after-school tutoring, to removal from the public school system for home schooling.  But make no mistake – God has given the responsibility of educating your children to you – not school teachers.

What happens when children can’t keep up and don’t get help?  Most schools have a group of children who identify with each other precisely because they don’t fit the mold of traditional education. When they cannot be successful at schoolwork, their natural tendency is to look for another way to be successful.  Together, they can be successful in each other’s eyes by working together to define what is good or “cool” and then reaching to achieve it.  In most cases, the child’s sinful nature is the catalyst for what is good or “cool” and so they tend to get into trouble.  We’ve all seen this before.  This peer group of underachievers (by educational standards) forms a culture of failure in the school.  They don’t enjoy school, associate learning with school and eventually turn their backs on learning and school and turn to other ways of being accepted by their peers.  These “misfits” are likely to choose peers who (like themselves) reject the standards of the school system and possibly by extension society as a whole.

By removing struggling children from a formal school environment we eliminate their sense of failure when they cannot keep up with other children and we allow them to learn at their own pace and level, instilling confidence and an understanding of success they can attain.  Further, they don’t need to identify with others who are experiencing the same difficulties as they are and they are able to mix and work with others in their age group without an academic stigma.  This is not to say that everything will be perfect, the very presence of learning difficulties may signal other issues that may be a problem in social settings, but it does prevent a negative pattern from emerging if caught early enough.

For this reason if you have children with learning difficulties, consider whether formal schooling will be help or a hindrance to them as you seek to grow them into mature and responsible adults.  Driving children to maintain a pace that is beyond their capabilities is generally not a recipe for long-term biblical success.  It is more important that your children enjoy learning, than they attain arbitrary goals at arbitrary stages.

Even if your children have no problems with learning, don’t feel locked in by the world’s educational standards.  Scripture doesn’t mandate when children should be reading, doing matrices or what their comprehension should be by age nine.  Nor are you limited to the subjects schools teach.  Think outside the box and focus on the Biblical mandate, your child’s capabilities and how best to educate them for the goals you have for your family.  Take the children’s interests into account.  If they love learning, they will be life long learners.  Make learning something they enjoy and they will reap the benefits for decades to come.

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