What wisdom does the Bible offer on how we should teach our children?
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
This passage is a good summation of what the Bible has to say about teaching. Almost invariably, when teaching is mentioned, it is in the context of teaching the precepts of God, the law, the right way to live.
The Bible doesn’t say anything about algebra or diagramming sentences.
Of course, many things aren’t addressed in the Bible, so this does not mean teaching algebra is anti-Biblical. Instead, this argument is in answer to those who claim that Christians can’t be unschoolers or that unschooling is unbiblical. It is not, and there is no possible basis for such a claim.
When I was researching homeschooling, I looked into what the Bible had to say about educating children. It really doesn’t say much, except to say: teach your children about God by making it a part of the fabric of your life. Even the famously quoted “train up a child in the way he should go” is clearly referencing a child’s spiritual walk, not his academic achievements.
Walking in Dad’s Shoes
The teaching described in the verse above is awfully darn close to every definition of unschooling I’ve ever read. While it certainly does not preclude formalized teaching, what that specific verse describes is the life-learning method practiced by unschoolers.
It describes making the lesson – in this case, the commandments of God to His people – into a natural part of everyday life.
Kids want to grow up to be just like mom and dad … so capitalize on that.
In other words: live it yourself, because education is not separate from life … which is the very heart of unschooling.
“Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Maybe in modern terms we might say, “Talk about them when you’re at home and when you’re hanging out at the park, at bedtime and at breakfast. Make sure your phone has the Bible app available, and listen to the Bible on CD in your car.”
This is how we are told to teach the most important subject of all: the person and providence of God.
The education system as we know it in America has been in existence about a hundred years. That’s not a very long time at all, just a few generations in a fairly small part of the world. Education in other times and other places, even formal academic education, has looked very different.
To say that the only Biblical or Christian method of education is seven-hour days broken into fifty-minute study increments of six or seven discrete subjects approached in a modular, linear fashion is not only ridiculous, it is insulting to all those who have learned marvelously well using other methods. It is insulting to those who seek to follow the Bible and incorporate the life learning techniques described therein in every aspect of their lives and their children’s learning experiences.
Claiming that Christians cannot be unschoolers is adding something to the word of God. The truth is, the Bible does not address the best way to educate children, other than to tell us to weave the truth of God into our everyday lives.
So … did you talk to your children about God at breakfast today?