We have already looked at what the studies show about Christian children in public schools. These jaw-dropping studies leave parents wrestling with questions such as, “If public school is not an option, should I homeschool or consider Christian school?”, “Is Christian school affordable for me?”, “What are the benefits of Christian school?”, “How do I choose a Christian school?”, and others. When deciding between public school and Christian school, it is important to consider the benefits of a Christian education. We will explore those benefits in this article.
A Brief History of American Education
Until roughly a century ago, the goal of American education was to foster a biblical worldview in its citizens, not only to lay biblical foundations for civic duty, but to educate biblically as a compass to lead children to the true north, Jesus Christ. At very least, the original intent of American education was indeed to instill into students solid Judeo-Christian principles necessary for keeping America a Constitutional Republic.
Within the last century or so, educational philosophies have begun to ebb, flow, multiply, and fester, resulting in the permeating of progressive thought into our educational system. The gradual seeping of humanistic philosophy into the framework of public school curricula has almost imperceptibly eroded absolute truth, and what we are left with is a modern philosophy of education that seeks to elevate folly and suppress the solid, Judeo-Christian principles that had successfully guided generations past.
We explore this topic in-depth in a previous article evaluating the results of sending Christian children to public schools.
Philosophical Decay of Public School Education
The effects of this philosophical decay of public school education are ubiquitous and terminal. An entire generation has sat under the tutelage of educators who have been duped into believing that man is at the center of existence, and therefore his happiness and equity are the end goal. Gone is absolute truth. Gone is a celebration of integrity and work ethic. Gone is a sense of sacrifice and a looking to the future. Gone, even, is the logic and beauty of mathematics. In their place are relativism, tolerance, narcissism, temporal happiness, elevation of entertainment, shifting morals, and a strenuous effort to see to it that everyone gets a fair shake. The advent of technology has accelerated this erosion of philosophy at an astonishing pace. Educators can barely keep up, even in the realm of pre-K and Kindergarten education.
This shift in educational philosophy has prompted many parents to look for alternatives to public school for their children.
The Benefits of Private School
Private schools, particularly Classical private schools, are widely known to be more rigorous, with higher academic and behavioral standards, and are freer to focus on character development alongside academics. A study by the National Center for Education Statistics, as reported by capenet.org, found that
“private school students generally perform higher than their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests, private high schools typically have more demanding graduation requirements than do public high schools, private school students are more likely than their peers from public schools to have completed advanced-level courses in three academic subjects, and private school students are more likely to have attained a bachelor’s degree by their mid-twenties.”
According to a study by the Cato Institute, survey results showed there were “extremely high levels of parental satisfaction, with 98.6 percent of respondents answering that they are ‘satisfied ’or ‘very satisfied ’with their chosen (private) school relative to their previous experience at a government school.” The top five reasons cited were better student discipline, smaller class sizes, improved student safety, and more individualized attention. A very low percentage of parents cited standardized test scored as relevant to their satisfaction with their child’s private school.
What’s the Difference Between Classical Private Schools and Traditional Private Schools?
Classical private schools differ from conventional private schools in that Classical educators teach from the presupposition that “the world makes sense and that the sense it makes is knowable” (CiRCE). This principle is called the Logos. By contrast, conventional educators focus not on discovering the order and sense of the world, but on how to teach what is practical and useful in a chaotic, disorderly world. Classical education seeks to teach to the ideals of wisdom and virtue, where conventional education seeks to teach pragmatics. For example, Classical educators teach both logic, the art of thinking and reasoning justly, and rhetoric, the art of speaking with propriety, elegance and force.
The study of great books and a rigorous and rich curriculum are at the center of Classical Education, with the goal of seeking wisdom, virtue, and greatness through the study of the classics. Placing God’s Word at the center of all learning is the primary differentiator between Classical education and Biblical American Classical Education (the Principle Approach). The desired end of both forms of Classical education is to produce citizens of excellence and moral character.
The Paramount Benefit of Private Christian School
Unfortunately, many moderate Christian schools present Christian parents searching for Christian school with a format of bible classes, chapels, and missions/outreach programs alongside a secular curriculum. The results of this form of education are clearly seen in the studies produced by the Nehemiah Institute. The absence of a biblical worldview is the outcome of these types of Christian schools, and should encourage parents to engage in a thorough investigation of Christian schools that advertise biblical worldview development.
It is likely that parents will discover that Classical Christian Education, based on the Hebrew methodology of education, teaches with the end goal of “knowing God.” Classical Christian education seeks to acquire knowledge in order to know and elevate Christ. The Logos of Classical Christian Education is Christ, which results in measurable and discernable biblical worldview development in students. These Classical Christian schools are true biblical worldview schools providing parents with the desired outcome of biblical worldview development in their students.
Naturally, if you are a Christian, you know that you are commanded to teach your children according to the precepts of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6, Deuteronomy 6:7). Pastor Doug Wilson, outspoken proponent of Christian education argues, “I want my children to be brought up as children of the King.” In speaking of public schools, he wrote, “Anywhere parents have a choice they should be getting their kids out.” It makes sense for Christian parents to place their children in an environment that aligns with what they are being taught in church and at home.
Martin Luther, a German priest and theology professor asserted,
I am much afraid that schools will prove to be great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount.
A century later, on September 26, 1642, the founders of Harvard College in the Rules and Precepts at Harvard stated,
Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2, 3).
When you consider the influx of competing messages that our children encounter every day, shouldn’t we endeavor to surround them with biblical influences wherever and whenever we can?
Some would argue that children should not be educated in a “bubble.” The contention is akin to baptism by fire. Expose your child to the world so they can learn to cope in it. Or, place your child in the world so that they can be a light. But childhood is a critical juncture in the formation of world view. Children are fragile emotionally, and extremely pliable to outside influence.
Christian school is, of course, not a cure-all. Like a church or a Christian family, Christian schools are comprised of by redeemed sinners. Not all classmates are believers, and, like anywhere else, negative influences are ever present. However, when negative influences are discovered, solutions are sought that are biblical, loving, and grace-filled. The goal of every adult in a Christian school is to come alongside the Christian parent to train a child in the ways of the Lord. Truth is taught in every kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school classroom and every subject, and opposing views are explored and held up against the light of God’s infallible Word.
How Do Christian Parents Choose a Christian School?
A study by the Barna Group cited parents as rating spiritual formation, small class sizes, caring and accessible teachers, aligned beliefs, and academic excellence among the top reasons for satisfaction in their child’s private Christian school.
When choosing a school, parents should go about it with an understanding of what it means to be a student in the 21st century. Electronics and social media have changed the landscape. Information is copious and immediately accessible, so parents and teachers must endeavor to somehow stay out in front of it all. Try as you might to keep your child away from “the world,” soon they will be surrounded by other children who may not have the same parameters in their home, no matter what school you choose. Being proactive and preemptive, as well as being willing to have frank and, perhaps, uncomfortable conversations with your child about things they may hear at school will help keep your child willing to continue to live by the values you’ve worked hard to instill.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Christian School
Many Christian parents struggle through what educational environment is best for the tender mind and heart of their child. Naturally, most Christian parents are hoping and praying will grow into a redeemed follower of Christ. Choosing a school for a child being reared in the Christian faith could be likened to choosing what foods to feed the same child. Ask questions about food such as, “What are the ingredients in this product? What does the label list as the components? What is the nutritional criteria? Does this food nourish my child’s body in beneficial ways?”
In the context of Christian preschool and school, these same questions can be rephrased, “What are the ingredients that make up this school? What does the school list as the components of their educational philosophy? What criteria are in place to ensure my child is educationally nourished? Does this school nourish my child’s mind, body, and spirit? Is their character training and development based on biblical standards? What are the qualifications and character standards for the hiring of teachers?”
When choosing a Christian school, some other questions to ask could include:
- What is the school’s philosophy of education?
- Will my child be prepared with “cultural street smarts” to be able to navigate the world as a strong Christian.
- How will my child be prepared for college or vocational readiness?
- Is the gospel evident and visible throughout the school?
Of course, as parents, we must continue to pray. We are told to make supplications, prayerfully and thankfully, in exchange for God’s perfect peace (Philippians 4:6). God loves your child more than you ever could! Go to him first for guidance in making this all important decision.
Christian school is a commitment that requires sacrifice. God’s admonition to consider where your treasure lies applies to the form of education that you select for your child. Many Classical Christian schools, including Dayspring Christian Academy provide financial aid. Sadly, while many parents apply for financial aid for their child’s college education, many do not view financial aid as an option for their child’s primary education. Parents considering Christian school should consider that the benefit of temporal riches is remarkably dim compared to the return on the eternal investment in the godly upbringing of our children. A home, church, and school trifecta can greatly contribute to that investment, to the glory of God.
If you are looking for a Classical, Christian school in Lancaster, PA, please schedule a private tour or register to attend one of our Open Houses. If you would like more information about Dayspring Christian Academy or the Principle Approach, please call Karol Hasting at 717-285-2000.