Achieving the goals of true education

Each part of Christian education the home, school, and church must work together to be successful.

Leslie L. Lee, Ph.D., is superintendent of schools in the Greater New York Conference.
In early America when schools were small and religiously oriented, the curricula contained instruction de signed to strengthen the church and the home. The home and the church, in turn, supported the school and its discipline. A child punished at school was further punished at home. However, as society became more complicated and as schools grew in enrollment, a gap developed between the school and the home and church. Moral values and religious teachings disappeared from the curricula. Parents insisted that the school assume responsibilities previously delegated to the home. "Let the school do it, that's where children are sent to learn" became their attitude. In many cases, houses, furnishings, cars, and comfort became more important to parents than teaching their children. When the schools needed parents to enrich the children's learning, to furnish informational background, or to provide other types of support, many parents were not interested in cooperating.

Therefore, a unique feature of Christian education envied by other educational systems today is the close bond that often continues to exist among the home, school, and church. These three educational agencies contain essential elements that reinforce one another in the learning process. When all three work harmoniously, the end product is a fully developed Christian—physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Educators in the public and private secular school systems continually seek ways to involve parents in assisting children to learn. Of course, church support cannot be sought by public schools, be cause of church and State separation. Thus, what comes naturally to the Christian educational system has over the years become foreign to public and private secular schools.

The danger exists today that the history of the public school may be repeated in the Christian educational system. The school, the home, and the church may well drift apart through lack of communication and for want of mutually supportive programs.

Many Christian schools are not fully utilizing the strengths of the home and the church in a cooperative program. Christian educators, church leaders, and parents must sit down together, seeking ways to utilize fully the educational potential of these three agencies.

The home

The educational process commences in the home. Ira J. Gordon, author of Building Effective Home-school Relationships, emphasizes the importance of the home as a training center. "A sense of responsibility for others, a concept of being helpers or competitors with others in the world, attitudes toward violence, the handling of aggression—all begin early in the home. The home continues to play a major role, far more than does the school."

Through direct and indirect parental teaching, the home develops character traits that affect the child's learning and behavior at school, at church, and in society. Parents teach directly by verbal instruction and by reading to the child. In their actions and attitudes parents teach indirectly.

Early in the child's life the trait of cooperation should be cultivated. "The work of cooperation should begin with the father and mother themselves, in the home life. In the training of their children they have a joint responsibility, and it should be their constant endeavor to act together. . . . With such training, children when sent to school will not be a cause of disturbance or anxiety. They will be a support to their teachers, and an example and encouragement to their fellow pupils."—Education, p. 283.

It is in the home, also, that the important work of helping the child develop a positive self-concept is accomplished. Parental response to his words and actions figures largely in the process. Discipline and correction can be used to build a good self-concept, or it can be used to destroy. Dr. Hiam Ginott illustrates. When Larry, 10 years old, breaks a glass, deal with the situation, not the person. If mother says, "How many times do I have to tell you to be more careful?" and father adds, "He can't help being clumsy; he was born that way," such criticism attacks the core of the child's responsibility and self-es teem. A child may believe his parents and assume the role assigned to him. Clumsy will behave clumsily. In contrast, a positive self-concept can be built by dealing with the situation, not personalities. "The glass broke; we need a broom. The milk spilled; we need a mop." Parents who work with their children in a calm yet firm way assist their children to develop a strong sense of confidence so necessary to success in school.

As parents express their own attitudes by words, gestures, and innuendos, they shape their child's attitudes. Fathers and mothers who maintain close contact with the teacher and continually express an interest in school happenings demonstrate the importance of education. The child thus views school as important also.

Consistent family worship in the home develops the child's spiritual strength, preparing him for the Christian school and church. Respect for the Scriptures is established by reading Bible stories at bedtime. Faithful church attendance by all family members structures a life style seldom abandoned in later life.

The school

When a child enters school, the educational responsibility formerly carried primarily by the home is shared with the teacher. "The parents' intimate knowledge both of the character of the children and of their physical peculiarities or infirmities, if imparted to the teacher, would be an assistance to him." Ibid., p. 284. The child's social interaction at home how he gets along with siblings, father and mother, and other relatives is knowledge of value to the teacher.

Parental visits to the child's classroom to determine how he reacts to the teachers, other pupils, and school activities indicate interest in the child and school, as does participation in field trips as drivers or supervisors.

The Christian school, in turn, supports the home and church in many ways. Daily worship exercises at school develop the students' spiritual life as they plan and direct programs. Weeks of Prayer result in baptismal classes and church membership. Missionary activities in the school lead to an attitude of cheerful support and continued involvement in the church programs. Biblical teachings generate godly characters in the students. Values taught in the Christian home, such as honesty, kindness, orderliness, cleanliness, responsibility, and respect for authority are also taught at school.

The church

Likewise, the church plays a prominent role in strengthening both the home and the school. Activities that develop unity among church members ultimately benefit the home and school. Social activities encourage family participation. Prayer meetings, structured to provide for the spiritual needs of children as well as adults, foster the growth of a godly character so essential for success in the Christian school setting.

Pastors and other church leaders would do well to establish classes for parents. These classes should provide knowledge not only of how to develop the spiritual realm in the home but of how to teach correct attitudes, values, and learning skills. School readiness and success in future school years depend greatly on these early home-learning processes.

Pastors can help church members to see the school as an integral part of the church program and to be supportive of it. Using the school's students in church services and programs and providing occasional sermons on Christian education will help cultivate a positive attitude. The talents of church members can be utilized in the school curriculum in such areas as career education, practical arts, and volunteer activities, thus bringing ' the church into direct contact with the school.

Christian educational institutions contain built-in support factors for a child's complete education through the cooperation of the home, church, and school. All three of these agencies teach the same basic concepts, reinforcing one another in order to reach the highest goal of education—the restoration of the image of God.

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Leslie L. Lee, Ph.D., is superintendent of schools in the Greater New York Conference.

August 1979

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