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In September, the mainland site Christian Times published a piece originally posted on the China Home Schooling Alliance website about Christian education in China. In the article titled “Church Schools or Home Schooling?”, the author lays out what he believes to be the difference between Christian education conducted within a church setting and home schooling. He then sets out to argue that home schooling is the most effective way for Christians to educate their children.
The article provides an interesting glimpse into a conversation taking place online among Christians in China regarding an important issue. Due to the length of the original article, it will be posted in two parts.
Church Schools or Home Schooling?
Many Christian brothers and sisters are eager to pull their children out of secular schools and give them a Christian education in line with the Bible in order to pass on the tradition of Christian faith. What is Christian education? I think so long as you target young people and children, and passing on the Christian faith is the fundamental purpose of education, then this can be described as Christian education. Acquisition of the Christian faith is not naturally self-obtained because people are prone to sin and separating themselves from God. Rather, faith is received from the grace of God that falls on us. An important part of Christian education is that, through the living testimonies of Christians, children and youth can personally understand sin and grace. In other words, this education is about one life impacting another life.
First, Christian education for children of Christians is both necessary and urgent. Because this generation is more and more crooked and depraved, teaching children to distinguish what is holy from an early age is very important. Deuteronomy chapter six tells us that a very important way to carry out the great commandment of loving God with all our heart, soul, and strength is through educating children. The importance of Christian education will not be discussed at length here. Instead you can refer to the following articles [links to articles not included in original article]:
“Great Commandment and The Mission of Education”
“Christians Must Pay Attention to Education”
“Church Schools or Home Schooling?”
Currently in China, there are two streams of Christian education: the first is churches that open church-run schools, the second is Christians who open small-scale schools and Christian parents who home school their children. But in fact, for many Christian families there is no choice. Let’s look at the situation for these two streams.
First, let’s look at Church schools.
At present, there are very few church schools in China. Many churches recognize the importance of Christian education, but a church that has opened a church school is probably “one in a million.” Currently, you can count on one hand the number of schools opened by churches in China.
There are several obstacles to the church school model in China.
(1) Policy Obstacles
Even though things are opening up, the government attitude towards the development of Christianity remains suppressive. Indeed, Christian schooling remains illegal.
It is a great burden for churches to operate church schools within this illegal context. Educating a child is not a one or two day thing, but is something that takes place over years, even decades. Many church pastors consider the problem of sustained maturity of children from a position of responsibility; however, the difficulties of dealing with the issue over the long term by building church schools that are illegal are too great.
Historically, church schools have been one of the most important models of Christian education, and from a spiritual point of view they are often the best models. Many brothers and sisters strive to promote the development of church schools, but the current legal environment makes it almost impossible for them to develop successfully.
(2) Pastor Awareness of Christian Education.
The understanding of many pastors regarding the importance of Christian education is inadequate. They believe it is a natural process for children to enter secular schools to act as light and salt in the world.
(3) Pastors are busy with pastoral ministries.
Pastors are too busy with their own pastoral ministry work. They have no time to take into consideration the long-term and arduous nature of Christian education for children.
Second, the Current Situation of Home Schooling and Micro-Schooling
In recent years, the home-schooling concept has been brought over from the United States and has gained popularity. As a result, many families have discovered that they can immediately implement Christian education themselves at home. This is a great joy for many Christian brothers and sister. With more and more families aware of the concept of home schooling, communities that practice home schooling will rapidly increase.
Looking at the growing trends in the world of education, in the future home schooling will be the fastest growing and most suitable model for students’ abilities. Education in large schools is just the product of the industrial age. Subsequently, a recognition of its growing number of drawbacks and people’s reflections on industrial civilization means the future of schooling will trend towards smaller scale reforms and increased importance of family and community involvement in education. [For more reflections on schooling, refer to this article: “De-schooling Society” by Ivan Illich]*
We predict that home schooling families and small scale home schooling co-ops will become the most important model of Christian education in China.
The Importance of Christian Homeschooling Families and Small Scale Family Schools for Chinese Christian School Education
(1) Under the current policy, the home-schooling model is the best solution to surmount policy controls.
The decentralized model of homeschooling will greatly reduce the policy risk towards children’s education. In fact, the responsibility of education should be on the parents, not on the state because the sovereign right of education is in the hands of the parents, not the state. This fundamental human right belongs to the parents and is protected by the Charter of the United Nations. This is also the biblical concept of educational rights, as seen in Deuteronomy chapter six. It could be said that family education does not have any policy risks. Even if the future of a child’s college entrance exam was worked out, there also would not be any policy issues.
(2) Home-schooling emphasizes the educational responsibility of the parents and parental involvement in education, and helps the parents’ faith to take root.
The great commandment in Deuteronomy chapter six to love the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, and strength is closely followed by the practice of educating children in order to carry out this great commandment. That is, God revealed that the method of practicing the great commandment is to educate our children. This is the manifestation of God’s profoundly mysterious will and wisdom. The world says that a child is the parent’s teacher and guide. When parents personally face their children’s education and daily family life, they must honestly confront their own faith. They cannot conduct the same superficial lives like in the church. Educating a child is an important way for parents to strengthen their faith. Furthermore, only by breaking away from the control of school education can parents restore a godly family worship lifestyle.
(3) The emphasis of home schooling on family life will enable children from an early age to acquire the experience of a healthy family lifestyle. After becoming an adult they will be more equipped to positively face the challenging social pressures to the family as well as maintain a Christian concept of the family.
One of the important challenges facing Christians today is how to face the social pressures from industrialization, commercialization, and materialism, as well as how to raise a Christian family. Everywhere we see the breakdown of families, rising divorce rates, homosexuality, abortions, and family members being hurt. Many social problems are rooted in our family problems. This is because nowadays there are few who raise their families according to the Bible. We see families in which both spouses work to chase after worldly fame and wealth, searching to fulfill their materialistic desires. And while their children are in school with no one there to serve the family, the family becomes hollow. Many young people are fearful of having a family, and fearful of raising and educating children. They are unable to enjoy the happiness and love that comes with having children.
We urgently need to change our attitude towards the family and our attitude towards raising children. We need to maintain and pass on Christian families, which will be a great blessing for our children and grandchildren.
To embed home schooling into family life will help children learn the essential peace and joy in line with the experience of biblical family life.
Home schooling can provide an education for children that teaches a more biblical view of adolescence and human nature, which is more in accordance with the discipleship teaching of our Lord Jesus.
Our hearts are fixated on the world. We are enticed by the big but empty and superficial things in life. Education today, which is something of a Babylon, causes us to seek after quantities, after titles, and after standardization. Even as Christians, our hearts are too forcefully drawn in by the world. If we follow this world we will be captives of it, not salt and light in it. The products of industrialization and consumerism are models of the devil. Large-scaled and comprehensive, standardized and competitive forms of education are also models of the devil.
True education in line with Christ’s will for education is above all not covetous. While many people were led to follow Jesus, he instead led his disciples to retreat with him into the mountains.
True education is not about money. Jesus, as poor as he was, led twelve disciples, yet he did not even have a place to rest his head. Education is the transmission of life; it is not, the competition for money.
Education is also about building relationships. The two great commandments are the relationship between man and God, and relationships between people. The school system is a large scale factory that is built without relationships.
In the Bible, every person created by God is bestowed with enormous sanctity and unique individual worth; every child is different. Home schooling emphasizes personalized education according to each student’s abilities, precisely in line with the God-given sanctity and individual worth of children. This resembles a prime example of small scale education that Jesus modeled with the twelve disciples. This is how the church and Christians today understand home schooling and small scale home schooling co-ops.
If we don’t properly understand home schooling and small scale co-ops, we will not be able to understand the significance of the development of home schooling in China. This misunderstanding will also influence the direction of our ministry.
Currently, in the area of Christian education in China many brothers and sisters are focused on church schools. Yet, home schooling ministries are in very short supply due to a lack of understanding about the purpose of home schooling.
Original article: 教会学校还是在家教育
Photo: Chicago Tribune