Its been kid crazy the last few days!
First, there was Thursday. A few of us JLC-ers went to a local primary school to teach about our home countries, on their invitation. I tried to explain to a class of 6 year-olds that the UK is made up of the 4 countries England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but is 1 kingdom… in Japanese!?! That was fun! They did appreciate the Welsh cakes that Anna made for them; the teacher even got several of them to stand up and give their opinion of them – very cute!
Then, there was Friday. At we had an orientation session on children’s education for missionaries. There were contributions from people with a wide variety of experiences, either as parents or children: local Japanese schools, various international schools, home schooling… I’d been asked to share my experience of secondary boarding school in the ‘sending country’. I think my parents did an excellent job and made really wise & godly decisions, with many good reasons. So I was glad of the chance to share how blessed and privileged I feel to have had the excellent education that I’ve had – great facilities, fantastic opportunities in music, drama, sports, academically, culturally, socially, as well as spiritually. I also made friends from several different countries. (It was a Christian school called Dean Close School.) I, and other OMF kids, had amazing guardians too, in Ivor & Yvonne Bees, who we stayed with during the holidays when we couldn’t go back to Asia to be with our parents. They threw themselves whole-heartedly into their role as our ‘second parents’, attending all the PTA meetings, and every play, concert, & sports day that we were in. Their support was crucial to making it work.
This whole area of children’s education is a complex, sensitive and emotive issue. Every family is different and even within families, every child is different – what works best for one child might not work for another. There are lots of different options, but none of them is problem-free; they all have their difficulties. It’s easy to see how you could get defensive of your own decisions for your children – no one wants others to think they’re a bad parent! It’s also easy to slip into being judgemental and critical of those who have different opinions. But what unites us as Christians is far greater than different opinions on education! I do think though, that it’s important we talk about it openly and graciously, with Bibles open, to see what wisdom and principles God gives us in His Word, rather than burying the issue as a taboo for fear of rocking the boat. So, I think it was great that we had this orientation session!
Anna & I have had many (sometimes heated!) discussions about this issue and have come up with 5 principles (so far) which we think are found in Scripture:
- The priority is to bring up the child to know and fear the LORD (Eph 6:1-4; Proverbs)
- Primary responsibility for this lies with parents, particularly fathers (Dt 6:5-9; Eph 6:1-4)
- Secondary responsibility lies with the christian community (Ps 78; 145)
- All truth is God’s truth – we don’t need to fear anything if its true; it belongs to God (whoever is teaching it) and so it is coherent and non-contradictory
- There’s no neutrality – any ‘mere facts’ taught without acknowledging God are deficient, e.g. “1 + 1 = 2 just because it does” is very different to “1 + 1 = 2 because God…”, in fact, it’s wrong
I for one, really feel the draw towards excellent academic standards, great facilities and opportunities in drama, sports, music etc when considering schools for my children. So I often need reminding of point 1, something which can be so obvious to us as Christians, that we don’t talk about it… and end up forgetting it!
I’m sure there is more to learn (!), but its such a comfort to know that the Bible is enough to equip us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17), including how to educate our children.
Then, there was today (Tuesday). We had a farewell party (with lots of little kids!) for a short-term worker who came to help with childcare at JLC. An example of point 3: the christian community together raising the next generation to know “the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD”.
Please pray for wisdom for us and other parents as we seek to bring up our children to know and love Jesus, and as we weigh up decisions about their education.