Monday, January 4, 2010

Academic and Spiritual Perspectives on Early Education

By Andrea Graybill
Director of Early Education, Christian School of York

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
--Mark 10:13-16

Tanner sits, ‘criss-cross applesauce,’ on his carpet spot. His eyes are fixed on his teacher, who is reading a Bible story that has captured every child’s attention. Her voice changes with each new character, and her body moves animatedly in her seat. Tanner glances beyond her for a moment, and his eyes take in a large bulletin board. There is a colorful calendar, with numbers displayed on cards that create a pattern, a weather graph, hundreds chart, Bible verse, beautiful picture of Jesus, a helper chart, day counter with place value, and a large picture of a smiling farmer (the week’s theme is “On the Farm”). He glances to the right at his “frogs on a log” paper hanging on the wall. This positive behavior management system encourages him follow the class rules each day.

Tanner is four years old, and is engaged in a Christ-centered, academically strong preschool program. His smile tells a full story. He is receiving an education that is unparalleled, as he participates in a developmentally appropriate, rich program that focuses on helping him grow spiritually, cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically. His teacher is a professional educator, and invests time in continuing her education, as she reads professional journals, attends education conferences, and learns from and with her colleagues. She is a committed Christian, who loves the Lord with all her heart, and loves the boys and girls who enter her room each day.

The Christian preschool experience is a unique one, in which those involved recognize that all truth is God’s truth, and that a quality education is a Christ-centered education. It calls parents to recognize that investing in their children’s future means focusing on the eternal as well as the immediate. It means finding a place that believes heart-training (spiritual development) is their God-given parental obligation (Deuteronomy 6:7). It also means sacrifice, as a Christian education often comes with a significant price tag. However, to the believing parent, this is never seen as an expense, but as an investment with an eternal return.

For the child being taught in a quality developmental Christian preschool, the environment is a natural one. Hands-on, discovery learning is emphasized, as teachers embrace each child’s unique personality and learning modality. Creative, higher-level thinking is fostered, and God is honored as children are trained up to explore life with a Biblical worldview. Children are never seen as “in the way,” but instead, are deeply valued as part of God’s creation. They are disciplined, in love, and in light of God’s Word.

In Mark 10:13-16 Jesus modeled for us how little children are to be treated. He demonstrated a love that welcomes them, fully embracing each one. Christian early education takes this philosophy to heart, combining an academic and spiritual emphasis that truly grows children the way God intended.

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