Imagine you are with the same group of people during thirteen very impressionable years of your life. They influence your thinking for seven hours a day, five days a week. Then, on the “off” time, you hang around others who were with you during those seven hours. You start to view the world through the knowledge you have been taught.
One of the major differences in Christian versus public schooling is “worldview.” Public schools tend toward a humanistic approach to teaching. Christian schools however, teach a biblical worldview. We are on this earth to bring glory to God. We are not here for ourselves and our own glory. Christian schools teach this worldview to students in a variety of ways. Some ways are distinctively Christian; others are not. Let’s look at some of the more obvious ways first.
In my kindergarten classroom, we pray at least three times each day. We thank God for his blessings, and we pray for each other. If a child is sick, we pray for that child to get better. If a child is late arriving, we pray for them to make it to school safely. One morning, we were praying for a child who was not at school yet. We finished praying, and the door opened and in walked the child for whom we were praying. Another student exclaimed with excitement, “We just prayed you would come! Wow! God sure answered that prayer fast!” This really builds a sense of community in our classroom. Kids start to care for each other. I let the children come to the front of the room if they have something to pray about that day. We go right down the line and each take a turn. At the beginning of the year, maybe two or three kids come up and usually pray about themselves. Later in the year, more children come up and start praying for each other. “Please help Sara’s leg to feel better that she hurt at recess.” “Please be with Sophie’s grandma who is sick.” The children are truly caring for each other and sharing those cares with God.
We start each day with devotions. We sing or read from a kid’s devotional book that talks about God’s creation or helps us know how God wants us to treat each other. This allows us to begin each day focusing on God. Again, the Christian worldview is teaching students that it is not about us—it’s about God.
We are also able to study God’s Word, the Bible. In kindergarten, we are able to give the children their very own Bibles. There are kid-friendly Bibles that we read together throughout the year. We start by telling them that this gift is very special. We teach them the word cherish and tell them that we need to cherish God’s Word to us. It helps us know him better. The principal comes to the classroom and we make a big deal of handing the children their very own Bible. We want to emphasize the importance of the Bible. We also tell the Bible stories. I love telling the stories and the kids love it too. When I tell a story, sometimes I’ll say, “We need to stop there, we’ll find out what happens next tomorrow.” Many times I’ll hear groans of disappointment that I am stopping, and kids say “tell us more!” I enjoy fostering a love for God’s Word.
In addition, we are able to celebrate the true meaning of holidays. We just celebrated Christmas, and we were able to learn that Christmas is not just about us getting cool presents, but it is about Jesus’ birth! God sent us the greatest present ever! When we celebrate Easter, we can teach that it is not about candy and the Easter bunny, but it is about Christ’s sacrifice for us and his victory over sin and death! Without Christ, those holidays are “self” focused. A Christian worldview permeates the entire learning process. Now let’s look at some not-so-obvious ways that this happens.
If you walked into my kindergarten room during math time, you might see children studying patterns by using Unifix cubes or by making bracelets with pipe cleaners and cereal. You may see the same thing in a public-school classroom. Both classrooms will work on counting by 1s, 10s, 5s, and 2s. So what is the difference? Math is math. The difference is not in the subject, but why and how we are teaching it. I tell my children that God is a God of order and design. He is not a God of chaos. He makes numbers and even the world follow patterns. We look at the pattern of the seasons and the pattern of day and night. We learn the Bible story of Noah coming out of the ark and God’s promise to him (Gen. 8.) We even learn God’s promise that “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Gen. 8:22). I ask the children, “When you wake up in the morning, will it get light?” “Yes!” they answer. “How do you know?” I ask. Then we talk about the pattern of night and day and God’s promise that it will be like that as long as we are on the earth. And we also talk about the fact that God always keeps his promises. Numbers and patterns may not change from public to Christian school, but the connection to their Maker does.
Science is another example. Some people seem to believe that either you believe in God or science. They put God in opposition to science. In a Christian school, we are able to teach that God is the creator of science. It is God that gave us five senses and inquisitive minds to discover the world that he made. We look at the beauty of the fall colors, we go out and collect fallen leaves, and we study them with a magnifying glass and draw what we observe. We make leaf rubbings and art projects with them. Leaves are a wonderful learning tool and a way we can praise God and stand in awe of his creation. I love fostering the awe and respect for God and his world. Whether it is in catching grasshoppers and other bugs and studying them and their habitats or just enjoying a beautiful day God made, all of it brings glory to God.
One morning as we were starting school, the sky outside our windows was an awesome mixture of reds, pinks and oranges. I said, “Boys and girls, look at that beautiful sunrise this morning.” And one of the children responded, “Wow! God is so amazing!” That child had a sense of awe and wonder at God’s creation and blessed God for it. One of our first snowfalls in school, I was reading a book and from my angle I could see out the window as the snow fell steadily in big beautiful flakes. I knew the children were excited about the snow coming, but they couldn’t see it from their angle, so I paused the story and said, “Let’s take a break and go to the windows to look at the beautiful snow God is giving us.” They were very excited (as most kids are for the first snow of the season), but instead of just looking at it, we were able to thank God for it, too.
In most classrooms today, including my own, teachers are trying to build community and teach diversity. The difference here is how we teach it. In the first week of kindergarten, I talk about the fact that God did not make us all the same, but he loves us all very much. When we start writing in our journals the first week of school, I say this: “Some of you already know your letters and sounds. That is a talent God has given you. Some of you may not know them yet and that is okay because God doesn’t make us all the same. You will learn them. Some of you may be good at numbers, or soccer, or drawing.” I go on to talk about how our journals will all look different and I show examples of that. The kids have the freedom to write in the way God designed them and feel good about their work. This fosters community in our classroom. Kids do not make fun of someone who doesn’t know the answer, but are encouraging, knowing that we are all good at different things.
This approach also builds a respect for the diversity God has made. He has made us good at different things; he made us look different from each other, too. We talk about how boring the world would be if God made one kind of tree or animal. Then we talk about how boring it would be if he made one kind of person. We talk about God’s creativity and his love for all he has made.
We also talk about how God wants us to treat each other. We talk about sharing God’s love with others by how we treat them. We teach children to respect each other and to respect adults; and we treat the children with respect as well. When we know that we are all made and loved by the same Creator; it only makes sense to treat each other well. Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27). In a Christian school, this is believed and practiced by teachers, bus drivers, lunch workers, janitors, aides, and administrators. All have the same Christian worldview. The families of the children in your child’s class also have same worldview. Which worldview do you want your children being taught from seven hours a day for thirteen-plus years? Do you want them to use their education to glorify themselves or God? What foundation are you building for your kids to grow on?