Well, we have come to the end of a chapter in our household. Our Daughter graduated High School! We are so very proud of her, especially with her attitude of “sticking to it” when the last couple of years has left a very “sour taste in the mouth” of our whole family. Because of her homework load (average 4 or 5 hours per evening and 8 or more on the weekends), she had to do away with going to her Church Youth Group, personal devotions, several sports, several extra-curricular activities, socializing with friends, and applying for college scholarships. The work load was so great, she became like a robot churning out assignments, yet didn’t learn the subjects very well. We felt her education was incomplete.
As I evaluate our frustration, verifying it is real, then attempting to ascertain the problem and a solution (she attends a Christian school which I have a burden to help), what comes to my mind is the possibility of a lack of understanding of the value of a well rounded education that includes these 4 areas: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. I welcome your comments if I am off track…or on track.
I think since we Christians are to be like Jesus, Christian schools and home schools can look to how Jesus was as a student, and endeavor to emulate Him and His schooling. In Luke 2:52, there is a little bit about Jesus as a student, and a LOT can be learned about Him and the quality of His education in this one verse: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” There are four areas of life that the schooling of Jesus addresses here: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. Sound Christian schooling must train children in these four areas, giving appropriate effort to all, and none at the expense of another. They are individual areas, but work together, and it takes all four to have a sound Christian student. Let’s look at each of them:
- Mental I would assume this is your main focus in schooling. It is listed first for a reason. It is the foundation from which the other three build from, and the other three must have this to be of value. Mental includes academics or the knowledge of things, and the wisdom of how to use or apply those things.
Mental must also include the knowledge of what is right and true. Mental must also include discernment, which means the thought process to evaluate and come to a conclusion on any topic or issue, usually based on the knowledge of right and truth. Mental means to think logically.
Mental must also include self discipline, which is the ability and maturity to control your thoughts and ideas, since everything begins in the mind as a thought or idea. Self discipline is a mental ability for all areas of our life. Mental must include the understanding of a biblical world view, including the battle of good versus evil (God and Satan) as described in the Bible. It also includes the sinful nature of all people, the penalty for sin, that the penalty for sins was paid for by Jesus, and the purpose of life to serve Jesus as your Lord and glorify God, if you choose to repent of your sins and accept Him. Mental must include the tools necessary to serve God, and to recognize, resist, and possibly battle Gods enemy, Satan, as described in Ephesians 6:10-20. God said in Hosea 4:6 that His people were being destroyed because of their lack of knowledge, God wishes we become mentally great, which includes academics, and knowledge of Him and His laws.
- Physical We are not purely mental, but physical as well; they go hand in hand. A physically strong, healthy, and active person is a mentally strong, healthy, and active person. Teaching physical topics includes our bodies as the temple of God, and the proper use for our bodies, as well as some misuse topics (what is acceptable, and unacceptable to God). It also includes physical activity. Why do we have recess for children, gym class, intramural sports, individual, and team sports? I believe Jesus was strong and physically fit, and worked hard at the proper times to maintain it.
I am a big proponent for sports in school, and sports teams for home schooled students to join. God created us to be physical beings, to use and enjoy the use of our bodies in glorifying Him in physical activity, and to learn valuable lessons. Sports teaches self discipline, character, respect for rules and authority, boundaries, respect for others, it teaches confidence, work ethic, communication, responsibility, unity, and many other lessons in life, including winning and losing, and how to handle each. I praise God for sports because of it is a wonderful place to teach children the valuable lessons He wants them to learn.I would like to add a comment here that sports can also be an area where we can easily succumb to worldly views, instead of godly requirements. We are to portray the character of Jesus, not selfish prideful character that can be demeaning of others. Our coaches need to teach this. We need to be truthful. If a child makes a mistake, telling them “it’s OK” is not the truth, but telling them where their mistake occurred, and encourage them to try again to improve is. Everyone is made by God with different abilities and different levels of ability, but all can be a glory to God. There are winners and there are losers, but losers can be winners if they gave 100% of their effort. How the game is played is more important than winning. Compromising your values to win is a horrible life lesson to teach in sports. Teach Christian values, and sports is a great place to teach, practice, and perfect those values.
- Spiritual As mentioned in the mental area above, Christian schooling must teach the biblical world view. Spirituality is part of this, of course, and must include the teaching and understanding of God’s Word, the Bible. Spiritual comes from the Latin spiritus which means breathing. Religious and spiritual are two different things. Religion is people’s attempt to please God, spiritual is taking on the nature or the very essence of God, and becomes a necessary part of us like breathing. In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Bible says that all scripture is “God breathed”. Therefore, the meaning of being spiritual is to have as our nature, or our very essence, the Word of God. We are to live the Bible. In addition to that, the Bible teaches that we are created by God to have a relationship with Him. A relationship with God is so important to Him, that He sent His Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins, so we can have a communicative relationship with God without the barrier of sin between us. God loves to communicate with us (prayer, and reading His Word) as in personal devotions and personal prayer time. He loves for us to try to understand Him, and to be obedient to Him, which is spiritual. He wants us to be involved in our local church, and a ministry of some sort. Sound Christian schools teach their students to live the Bible, to obey God, and to have a communicative relationship with Him.
Spiritual also means to have and disseminate a biblical world view. Spiritual means to glorify God in all we say and do.
- Social We are to have and maintain relationships. We are to have companionship and unity among fellow Christians. Relationships are extremely important for growth as a Christian, accountability as a Christian, and the spreading of the Gospel. To be social, we must have the learned ability to reason logically, and to communicate effectively through rhetoric. Being social means to be friendly, courteous, caring, loving, respectful, serving, compassionate, trustworthy, God honoring, and edifying.
By nature, people are selfish, self centered, and proud (sinful nature we all have), which are detrimental to relationships with others, and to our relationship to God. To be social, we must have well developed mental and spiritual areas (see above). Kids today are the most social kids in all of history, with e-mail, texting, cell phones, and social sites on the internet. So Christian schools have a much bigger reason to teach Christian social skills. Teach dos and don’ts of e-mailing, politeness, etiquette, and social rules and courtesy.
To re-iterate: being social is a learned skill, and as mentioned above, schooling must include teaching logic and rhetoric. Christian schools must teach others-centered, Christ-like social skills based on biblical mental abilities, and spiritual abilities, with the awareness and overcoming of selfishness and pride.
Christianity is intended by Jesus to be a group effort. To be out in the world’s “battlefield”, but to regroup, huddle up with other Christians around God’s Word, recharge, then go back out. We are to assemble as believers, encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and ensure each other is living an obedient, fruitful life in Christ. Sound Christian schools encourage their students to interact with other Christians outside of school such as church youth groups and Bible studies. Then teach that the extension to that is also important whereas Jesus said we are to be lights in a dark world. Remember the song “This little light of mine”? we are not to hide our light under a bushel, but to let it shine outside of the church and school environment. Being social is important to God, and should be to our Christian schools as well.
When a school puts so much emphasis on academics and homework that sports suffer (physical), church activities and personal devotions are deleted (spiritual and social), and there is no time to go bowling or to the movies with friends or even to family events (social), something is wrong. In that environment, students are not given the opportunity to fully be like Jesus Christ.
Kids are underdeveloped and struggle through the next chapter in their life when academics and homework takes priority at the expense of the other three areas, and there are many casualties. Kids cannot make it in college away from home, even though their grades are exemplary, and most of you know some of these kids, you just (wrongfully) assumed other issues are to blame. There may be other issues, but unbalanced education is a major issue.
When sports takes priority in a school, and students lack the scholastic education to even get and hold a job outside of sports, the school forsakes the students. When a school is “run” by lazy students or whimpering parents who demand easy and worthless subjects and simple tests, our society suffers, and the school is a failure. A balance of the above four areas needs to occur, and it needs to be evident, and explained well to students and parents. It may not need to be 25% for each area, but it does need to be close.
Teachers, Board Members, and Administrators, take this to heart, learn, evaluate, determine, and implement these four areas. Emulate the schooling Jesus had in the four areas above, and your students will burst forth when they graduate excited, hopeful and enthused, well rounded, Christ-like, and glorifying Him, not soured and incomplete.