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Principles of Choosing

Christian Curriculum

Including the Place
of Entertainment
and
TV, Toys and Tears

by

Earl & Diane Rodd





Many reviews exist of various curriculum materials available to Christian families in the marketplace. Rather than review specific curricula, we seek here to develop Biblical principles so that as families examine what is available in light of their unique requirements, they can do so using sound basic principles. Because of the dominance of entertainment in our culture, we specifically address the place of entertainment in the Christian life and a Christian curriculum. The negative impact of including TV in the curriculum is addressed.







Principles of Choosing

Christian Curriculum




Families Honoring Christ

"But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart
and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

Earl & Diane Rodd
6044 Pine Creek St. N.W. North Canton, OH 44720

Phone: (330) 305-9318

4th edition - January 1994

5th edition - July 1997

6th edition - April 2000

Permission is granted to copy this article for personal sharing
but not for sale or other commercial purposes.



FHC is an Ohio based ministry providing information, encouragement
and fellowship to Christian families, natural and spiritual.




Unless otherwise noted, All Scripture quotations are from the

New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1988,

The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.



Additional copies of this booklet may be ordered from FHC by writing to the above address. The price is on the back cover of this booklet. Please add $1.50 for shipping regardless of the number of copies. A full listing of other books and booklets on related topics is also available from FHC at the above address.

Principles of Choosing

Christian Curriculum


The objective of this pamphlet is to lead the reader into sound principles for choosing Christian curriculum. Specific publishers and books are not discussed. First we will establish the necessity of a Christian curriculum. Next, we discuss the correct way to research the effectiveness of curriculum in light of the humanistic method of constantly trying new (and often failed) methods. The next sections discuss the place of entertainment in a curriculum and specific cautions about TV and video toys including symptoms which we often find associated with them. After this, we discuss the place of the classics in a Christian curriculum. At the end, we include an appendix which is a Bible study meant to lead the reader to a Godly attitude towards entertainment.

Why a Christian Curriculum

In this essay, we want to seek the Lord's wisdom on the meaning of a Christian Curriculum.

Our Goal
Our goal is to train children in such a way that they are strong Christians who can live in the world and not be of the world (John 17 :16-18). We want to "train up our children in the way they should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22 :6). We want our children to be of a different "culture" than the culture of the world in which they live. When they are tempted or encouraged to sin, they should have the response, "That is not part of my culture", rather than the weaker, "My church does not allow that". A good Biblical example of our goal is Daniel.

Daniel is a superb example of a boy whose training prepared him for a tremendous attack on his faith. He was taken from his family, his culture, his language, his center of worship and his spiritual counsellors. Babylon tried to make him into a Babylonian through its culture (and therefore religion) by teaching the literature and language of Babylon (Daniel 1 :4). However, by this time of Daniel's life, Daniel's convictions made his culture (according to God's Book) supreme, and even though he studied the pagan culture (i.e. religion) of Babylon, he used that knowledge only to excel in his service and to expose the wickedness of Babylonian kings. He never , in some 65 years of service to four kings, compromised his faith. Even when Daniel was given the "opportunity" to cease praying for just 30 days (Daniel 6 :7 and 12) in order to save him from the lion's den and certain death, he was steadfast to his culture, based upon God's Law, which included praying every day.

Two Cultures, Two Philosophies
When a person writes a textbook, his philosophy and culture will be a part of that textbook. This is the way God has made us, to express our very being in what we do and say. This cultural and philosophical teaching is more apparent in some subjects (e.g. literature, history, and science) than in others (e.g. math) and later, we will discuss how the teaching comes into subjects. Before doing that, we need to emphasize the great separation between Christian culture and philosophy and the culture and philosophy prevalent in our day. We must realize that the average "man on the street", in addition to government leaders and university lecturers and authors, hold to a very non-Christian philosophy and culture. As little as fifty years ago, the gulf between prevailing culture and Christian culture and philosophy was much narrower. Even non-believers started with some of the same basic approaches and views of life as the Christian. Today, the gulf is far wider. This conforms with Jesus' prophecy that the wheat and the tares would grow together. Some distinct areas of difference are:

  1. The starting place for any man's thought is whether he believes in absolute truth, that is, can we find truth that does not change. The Christian knows that there is absolute truth. Most men of a the mid-1800s believed there was absolute truth and sought to find it. Not all found Christ because they chose sin and self instead, but they believed they could find the truth. Therefore, they always had a philosophy of hope for the future.
  2. With regard to science and origins, Christian thought says we start with the Creator who made everything and who maintains active involvement with His creation and man. Modern philosophy is based upon a world with no outside influence. That is, the world is nothing but a bunch of "goo" completely on its own slowly evolving to some undefined state. It has no relevant past and no secure future.
  3. The result of the above two differences is that the culture and philosophy of the world today says that only the "now" matters. It says the past is irrelevant and the future has no hope. In times past, even non-Christian philosophers (who sowed the seeds of today's problems because they did not know the Lord) had the optimism of thinking they could find meaning and truth in history and a hope for the future. The "now" philosophy (existentialism) knows no absolutes and is concerned only with what feels good to the self (flesh) now.
  4. Modern philosophy and culture leads man away from the search for absolutes, to the emphasis on now, to eastern religions with the belief that god is you (a complicated way to exalt self) and finally when that fails to fulfill, to cultism and occultism. Today's newspapers and popular magazines carry horoscopes, not God's Word. We cannot allow ourselves to deny such blatant evidence.
We cannot over-emphasize the difference expressed above! Things are not the same as they were 30 years ago! Listen to contemporary music or carefully consider the philosophy and culture portrayed in movies and on TV in light of what is written above.

Why Christian Curriculum
There are two simple reasons for Christian curriculum.

  1. Godless (secular) curriculum will communicate the culture and philosophy of the world to our children (and us).
  2. Even if we can avoid the bad influence of godless curriculum by careful screening and explanation, precious moments are lost reading or studying which could be used more effectively. For example, reading a "nice" children's story may not be obviously harmful and can provide practice in reading, but the time and effort could be used for more than reading practice. It could be used for "training up the child in the way he should go." Ephesians 4 :15-16 exhorts us to "be careful how you walk . .. making the most of your time, because the days are evil." We have only so many hours to train our children! Therefore, let us not squander hours which can be used profitably.

An author's work will be influenced by his culture and philosophy. Since his work is designed to communicate, it will communicate his culture and philosophy. The godless philosophy of our day can infiltrate even mathematics because the godless author will not weave into his text the truth of mathematical order which reflects the character of the Creator. But a major concern here is the subtle effect which comes simply because the author is godless and will choose problems, structure his work and do every small step in accordance with his culture and philosophy. In mathematics, this phenomena may be minimal, but it may not be. Some secular texts today include absurdities such as alphabetizing the names of the numbers from 1 to 10 in order to destroy any concept of order or absolutes in the child. If we realize the Babylonian nature of our culture, we can have a discerning eye for the attempt of Babylon to make its culture our culture just as Babylon attempted to make its culture Daniel's culture.

Christian text books are different from secular ones. A Christian author writing about history will intentionally look for God's plan and will look at people in history from God's perspective. The Christian author will use material about Christians who have made important contributions to politics, science and other areas; whereas the secular author tends to ignore Christians or fail to acknowledge the role of their faith in their accomplishments. The Christian author will look at every aspect of the physical universe as part of God's master plan whereas the godless author will take every opportunity to affirm that there is not a God or Creator whose Word is absolute. The Christian author will look for examples of the truths of God's Word in the past and in the present (e.g. morals, prophecies) whereas the godless author will ignore such truths even if he has to misrepresent history or science to do so.

The way in which our children learn to view the world is heavily influenced by the textbooks/curriculum from which they learn. For example, if children learn about social reformers (e.g. people instrumental in stopping slavery) from non-Christian writing, they will never learn about the way in which God leads people to put His ways into practice. Instead, they will come to believe the humanistic lie that man is his own deliverer and will eventually evolve to some higher form of being, capable of solving all human problems by his own genius.

The Christian author acknowledges integrity and its blessings along with sin and its effects in every age of history and in every country on earth. The author with today's philosophy portrays today's "enlightened" morals (e.g. promiscuity, homosexuality, lying, situational ethics, values clarification) as the apex of evolution while ignoring or denying the obvious evil effects.

Christian Approaches

Christian curriculums fall into two basic philosophies. Any particular family may find itself using all curriculum of one philosophy or a mixture which suits that family. A textbook may even blend the two philosophies. Our purpose is not to recommend one or the other but to give you a way to examine your own choices of curriculum and make decisions on what is best for your family. The two philosophies are:

Moral
Stories, examples and history teach moral lessons consistent with God's Word. God is affirmed as Creator and Jesus as Lord. Examples of the moral approach in readers for young children are McGuffey's Readers and A Beka readers.
Theological
Stories, examples and history use the Bible as source material. For example, material of this philosophy will use Bible stories in readers. Examples of the theological approach in readers for young children are the Rod & Staff readers.

We discuss this here to emphasize that both approaches will communicate the Christian philosophy and culture of the author(s). We do recommend caution when selecting readers, whether children's readers or high school literature, using the moral approach. Such readers or literature selections may lean heavily on classical learning which may be quite pagan even though it shares some moral principles with Christianity. For example, stories from eastern religions (e.g. Buddhism) or ancient Rome may contain sound morals but totally fail to communicate the Christian basis of morality. See a later section of this pamphlet for more information on the classics.

The "Good Old Days"
We believe that God is calling us to be accountable to all the truth available to us from Him, which includes the wisdom of Christian experience over the centuries. Our purpose should not be to merely emulate an earlier day, but to improve upon it. For example, some Christians today lament for the "good old days" of the 1950's when TV and radio programs did not include profanity and nudity, violent crime was rare and drug abuse uncommon. However, we must realize the necessity to improve on the culture of the 1950's when we see that the 1950's led to the 1960's, 70's, 80's, and 90's! The 1950's culture contained the seed of its death because it enjoyed the blessing of a morality without acknowledging the source of the morality, God's Word and His grace through Jesus His Son. TV families in the 1950s may have been stable families with sound morals, but they never explained the basis of their morality, and they never portrayed examples of Christian instruction and training of children. Furthermore, the entertainment industry of the 30's, 40's and 50's was not so moral. Adultery and immorality were rife among industry leaders. Also, many programs from the 50's, while not as blatantly immoral as modern programs, made light of immorality and failed to uphold righteousness.

Considerations of Specific Subjects

Below is a brief listing of subjects which have lesser and greater requirement for specifically Christian curriculum. In this essay, we don't have space to carefully consider each subject area.

  1. Subjects with less requirement for specifically Christian curriculum.
    Note: Even though these subjects do not require specifically Christian curriculum, often Christian publishers will provide superior materials using superior METHODS! For example, chemistry and physics are better taught from a knowledge of God as Creator. Secular chemistry may contain earth worship disguised as environmentalism. Secular grammars are often very watered down. Secular grammar writers may not believe in the purpose of language as a means to communicate the Gospel from one generation to another and therefore feel quite free to make radical changes in the nature of the language (e.g. changing the names of parts of speech) which create artificial generation gaps. See the FHC booklet Grieving Over Grammar for an extended discussion of how grammar is taught including how teachers are taught in colleges.
  2. Subjects with maximum requirement for specifically Christian curriculum.
Note that all the subjects in the second list above require textbooks written from a Christian perspective. If not Christian, biology will teach the lie of evolution, history will teach humanism (and show achievements of humanists and ignore Christians), geography will teach evolution and exalt pagan religions, and government will teach humanism (the state is God).

We have excluded literature from either list because of the belief that the Christian/anti-Christian difference is paramount. For a Christian, the literature emanating from any culture must be carefully scrutinized. Most literature that is acclaimed by the world's standards promotes an evolutionary, humanistic philosophy (about which we are warned in Colossians 2 :8) that undermines the truth of the God's Word and His Will.

When choosing literature, our goal is not simply to avoid literature which is harmful to our children, but rather to choose literature which has a positive Christian value in addition to reading practice and vocabulary enhancement. Positive values include learning about history, people, examples of Christian life and practice, science or technology.

Warning

We sadly must add a note of warning here. Some modern Christian authors have fallen prey to worldly techniques of story telling. Thus Christian novels must be scrutinized for:

  1. The ungodly emphasis of romantic love rather than God's provision of a mate.
  2. Sensual descriptions of sin that entice the reader rather than repulse.
  3. Entertainment that wastes time rather than instructs.

We would encourage Christian families to spend time reading biographies or autobiographies of Christian leaders in the Body of Christ, Christian statesmen, Christian businessmen, Christian missionaries etc. These often have the true perspective of God's provision for a mate, teach the reality and practicality of obeying God and denying self and serve to edify and encourage as well as instruct.

We also must add that some insecure, well-meaning, Christians have moved into revisionist history by overlaying a Christian veneer upon "moral" historical figures who never publicly professed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (Luke 12 :8)

History and Literature

In schools, literature is often used as a means to teach about cultures of earlier eras. Many home educating parents attended schools and were taught this approach. Most of high school English, one entire subject, consisted of reading fiction . We challenge the notion that we should spend so much effort reading fiction. Fiction can have a place - Jesus taught by parables. However, in our opinion, fiction receives far too much emphasis at the expense of the study of theological, political, and scientific thinking of earlier periods in history. Often extensive study of literature from earlier eras, whether Homer of the ancient Greeks or Dickens of the 18th century is justified on the grounds that it teaches us history. However, this is like saying that a future student would correctly study our era by studying the entertainment of today: movies, TV, and movie star magazines. Yes, entertainment is one element of a culture, but it is far from a complete picture. Reading novels of the 19th century, for example, shows us only a made up picture of what that author liked to portray. Just like today, most novels of earlier eras were written for commercial reasons. Thus authors wrote what sold, with no thought to how well they were portraying their culture to 20th century students.

Instead of reading so much literature, we suggest studying works such as: (examples in American history are noted)

Many of the items mentioned are readily available from Christian publishers or can be downloaded from Internet sites. Others will take effort to uncover. Many of these items are truly great works of literature in the sense of being examples of excellent writing. They just happen to be non-fiction rather than fiction (entertainment).

Types of Curriculum

Thus far, we have made a case for Christian curriculum. However, within the universal exhortation to use Christian curriculum is much room for God given diversity of methods and approaches. (1) We have already discussed the moral and theological approaches. Other examples of diversity are:

Workbook and Textbook
Both workbooks (such as A.C.E., Alpha Omega or Light Units) and textbooks (such as those from A Beka or Rod & Staff) are in common use among Christian home educators. In our opinion, both have their place. Some children prefer one to the other and learn better from one than the other. Thus, we encourage parents to a) listen to the Holy Spirit for direction, b) be willing to change and c) talk to their children about how they learn and what they like and dislike in learning using certain publisher's materials.
Unit Approach and Traditional
The so-called "unit" approach, the gathering of all information about a subject to be studied as one large unit, is quite popular among Christian home educators. For example, a unit on American frontier days would include studying political history, housing, dress, foods, transportation, and other aspects of western settlements. Some families quite naturally develop such units. Some families use guides such as Konos or Weaver to develop units. Other families find the unit approach very tedious and time consuming. In our experience, there are positives and negatives to the unit approach:
Positives
It feeds the natural inclination of children to immerse themselves in one study area.
Negatives
Excess work is required for the parent/teacher. Like many things, those who like developing units and are good at it succeed and the method works. For others, it brings condemnation because they cannot live up to their own expectations.

Also, remember that a traditional textbook is really a "unit" study. The difference is that the author has done all of the work of finding information about all aspects of a period of history, a foreign country, or other subject area.

Hands on Learning
The concept of hands-on learning is a Biblical method. The Biblical method includes learning by example and practice. We have one caution with so-called "hands on learning". The caution is to beware of substituting play for work. For example, if an interest in history inspires playing an important figure in history and dressing like him and giving speeches, this is an excellent way to bring history to life. However, play does not necessarily cause learning. Children can have a lot of fun dressing up and playing pioneer, but this does not cause them to learn history!

Conclusion
We want to conclude by encouraging each family in the exciting opportunity God has given us as we allow the "Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth."

Research and Curriculum Choice

An important aspect of choosing a curriculum is the examination of research on the effectiveness of various kinds of curriculum. This discussion describes how to identify valid research as opposed to random experimentation. With this background our discussion turns to four answers to the problem of choosing curriculum, one of which is research.

The educational world is full of experiments and research. Unfortunately, there is a dominance of experiments over research! By this we mean that schools have tried many experiments consisting of new educational methods without any research into whether the methods work (the best - or really worst - example is the look-say method of teaching children to read). The correct method of research does not fit well with an age which requires instant answers and which needs to believe that man can "invent" better methods for every task than any in use in all the past centuries man has lived on the earth. We live in a day in which there is a prevailing arrogance that any method or belief from more than 20 years ago must be inferior to something newer.

The idea that anything new is better than anything older comes from the theory of evolution. Those who believe in this theory believe that modern man is a superior animal, better in every respect than his ancestors - superior in intelligence, superior morally, truly a more advanced creature. Of course, the Bible correctly teaches us the opposite - that sin has caused a degradation of man except for the man redeemed in Jesus Christ. The evolutionist has a hard time with such things as the great pyramids because he starts with the assumption that men in those days were not as intelligent as men of today. Modern man not only does not know how the ancient Egyptians built those pyramids, but also does not know how he, with modern knowledge, could equal the tight tolerances and durability of mortars! How many times have you wished you could match the endurance, spiritual attentiveness or perseverance of Paul, or Noah, or Daniel?

This prevailing mentality of our age creates difficulties in research in any discipline, but in education, it is a disaster. The reason relates to the very nature of the education of children. The goal of our work in educating and training children is to lead them into becoming "good" adults. Of course, the Christian definition of "good adult" (a fruitful disciple of Jesus Christ) differs radically from the humanistic definition of "good adult" (which changes according to the latest trend). This means that the honest researcher must wait a generation to see the results of his research. Or, put another way, the academic with a bright idea about educational methods must wait nearly a generation to see if his idea is a good one.

Due to this frightening constraint on the verification of new ideas, modern man has simply chosen to abandon verification of new techniques and methods and starts to use them on the arrogant assumption that their new methods are "better." Another way in which modern man tries to avoid the time constraint of verified research is to abandon the ultimate goal of child education which requires waiting a generation to see the results and substitute intermediate results such as scores on tests. While this method has some validity for verifying a textbook in a narrow subject area, its use causes us to lose sight of our ultimate goal and instead tries to satisfy us with something less. In particular, we are encouraged to be content with academic results and lose sight of our ultimate goal of Christian character and discipleship. Remember that academic excellence follows the true disciple who knows that God's Word says that "whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might."

How is the Christian to approach this problem of selecting educational methods? The Christian has four answers:

Faith.
Yes, faith in God's Word. We can apply the absolute truth of God's Word knowing that God is our Creator and knows more about how we are made than any man! Faith means that even if we have no good examples, we can know that if we follow commands, methods and principles in God's Word, we will achieve the desired results. If God's Word makes a principle or method clear, a Christian walking in faith does not need a research study!
Prayer.
Prayer means that we talk to the living God who can speak to us and into our lives and the lives of our children.
Testimony.
We can use centuries of experience, both as recorded in the Bible and as written by Christians throughout the centuries, as testimonies and examples of how the principles of God's Word are to be worked out in real life.
Research.
We can take advantage of true research which has been and is being done. There are two kinds of research we can turn to:
  1. Historical studies which attempt to follow the results of different educational methods over several generations. For example, Christian researchers have studied the effects of the gradual change in the USA in the 19th century from home schooling to private schools to state (public) schools.
  2. Modern research over the time span of a generation. In particular, Dr. Raymond Moore has published the results of studies examining the lives of children as they grow to maturity. These studies deal with comparing home schooling with schools as well as comparing different approaches to home schooling. Also, a monthly academic research journal, Home School Researcher is available from the National Home Education Research Institute (Western Baptist College, 5000 Deer Park Drive, S.E., Salem, Oregon 97301). The editor of the journal, Dr. Brian Ray, also regularly contributes articles reporting some aspect of research of relevance to home schoolers to The Teaching Home magazine.

Conclusions

What is the purpose of all the preceding discussion? The purpose is to prepare us to discern valid research from invalid research. But we must give a warning - having such discernment is dangerous because when we learn to recognize valid research or methods, then we find ourselves challenged to act upon those findings rather than dismiss them as just one more conflicting voice.

Our reference to "research" in the following paragraphs includes the results of our study of the absolute truths of God's Word, the testimonies of history, and research studies.

If research shows us that home training is better than schooling, are we willing to adjust our lives accordingly? If research shows that the effect of TV is an equally important factor, are we willing to adjust our household accordingly?

Most of you reading this are excited about the Lord's word in your life leading you to train your children at home. But we must remember that home schooling is not the Kingdom of God. Are we prepared for our research to show other factors equally as important in the successful training of our children?

If our own study shows that the latest fads of the educational establishment are consistently foolish, will we be steadfast and confident in resisting every attempt to conform to using the "latest" methods? Also, will we realize the folly of study under these very same false experts (e.g. take university courses in education)? Non-Christian university professors are not able to present their course material from a Biblical point of view. The main issue here is our own confidence - can we really see secular professional educationalists as lost people and "blind leading the blind", rather than "experts" to emulate.

As we learn to discern valid research methods, then we can gain confidence in the value of home training.

From our own study and research applying the principles given above, we have confidence in making such strong statements as:

We hope that this short discussion has encouraged you in your own studies as you seek to find the best ways for your family. Perhaps we should conclude with the conclusion of Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 12:13
13. The conclusion, when all has been heard, {is :} fear God and keep His commandments, because this {applies to} every person.
14. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

The Place of Entertainment

First of all we want to state clearly that our objective in this discussion is not to put pressure or condemnation on anything which individual families find a joy and edifying within their families, but rather to release families from pressure to perform in certain ways.

Mind-numbing entertainment is so prevalent in our culture that the mentality that everything must be entertaining can crepe into our thinking in subtle ways. Schools have attempted to become "child centered" and make all learning "fun". This has resulted in an attempt to make school into an entertainment center. This approach is not only a failure, but is un-Biblical. As background to the following discussion on the place of entertainment in a Christian curriculum, we refer the reader to the appendix which provides a description of a Biblical view of all entertainment. In this appendix, we will see that the Bible says that joy is a beautiful part of life, but not foolishness. We read,

I Peter 5:8
8. Be of sober {spirit,} be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

II Timothy 4:5
5. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

I Peter 1:13
13. Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober {in spirit,} fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Thus we can see that we are to remain sober in spirit. This does not exclude joy, but does exclude foolishness. We can see God's thoughts about foolishness when Jesus said,

Mark 7:21
21. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,
22. deeds of coveting {and} wickedness, {as well as} deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride {and} foolishness .
23. "All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."

With the encouragement we have in God's Word to be of sober spirit, we believe that home educators can resist the pressure which comes from our culture to think that we have to provide "entertainment" for our children. Of course, children will enjoy many things that they do. God has made us to have joy as we live in His blessings. Even hard work can be joyful! In our experience, some parents feel pressure to provide a great deal of entertainment for their children in their home training programs and some of this pressure comes from reading the myriad of promotional material for various curriculums. We do not necessarily fault the authors of the material, rather we believe that some of this pressure comes from seeing so many different programs available.

However, one strong point does need to be made regarding entertainment and learning. For a child who grows up of sober spirit and whose mind has not been numbed by countless hours of passive entertainment, learning (even when accompanied by hard work) is itself stimulating, rewarding and even enjoyable!

In our experience a somewhat rigorous program can in the end be very enjoyable to the child because he has the reward of being able to do things which are new skills. For example, the Spalding phonics method, which we recommend, is not a "fun and games" program. In fact, it is so free of "games" that it is usable with adults as well as with 4-6 year-olds! However, the reward for the child using Spalding is that he learns to read very well and this opens up a whole new and exciting world to him! He can now explore the vast treasures available in books, and he is an active explorer, not a passive watcher.

Left to their carnal natures, children will be foolish. Proverbs says,

Proverbs 22:15
15. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

Part of our godly role as parents is to train children to be sober minded and not foolish. If we fall for the pressure to provide entertainment for our children (especially young children) for all the hours of the day, we may actually work against the Biblical objective of training children to be sober minded.

Again we want to be clear that we do not want to put pressure or condemnation on anyone. If you find that your 5 year old has a full day of activities, and you are not under pressure to "perform" to keep him entertained, then our comments are not meant to make you feel condemned. Rather, we believe you are finding the beautiful fruit of home education which comes when children readily fill their days with worthwhile activity. Because God has made each family as a special creation with a special purpose in His Kingdom, families will differ greatly in the kinds of activities which fill their days. Some training must be done which is just plain hard work, but beyond that, we can be at peace with God to not feel pressure to entertain.

TV, Toys and Tears
Having lived outside of the American culture for 9 years and now back in the USA. we can share an observation that transcends cultures with home educating parents. The demonic monster of mammon (materialism) must be exposed, faced and defeated in homeschooling families. Entertainment and fun is not a Biblical foundation for learning. The two most common culprits are TV and video games.

Those who are deceived by the humanistic approach to learning will observe the following negativistic traits in their children (around age 7):

  1. Reading is not fun or exciting. The child may prefer audio-visual stimulus (e.g. TV) rather than books.
  2. Learning is not fun and exciting. The child may prefer toys, TV, and video games to school subjects and mature learning habits (e.g. composition, letters, essays etc).
  3. Life is not fun and exciting. The child will complain of boredom. The child may prefer documentaries on TV (movies) rather than seeing the real thing (e.g. a movie about insects rather than watching real insects outdoors; a movie about animals rather than a trip to the zoo).
  4. Reading the Bible is not fun or exciting. The child may prefer fiction or fantasy to truth and reality.
We have observed these traits in homeschooled families with a variety of backgrounds - very rich to very poor, highly educated parents to parents with little formal education, and parents from different nations. The availability of TV and toys (educational) together appears to be a deadening influence on the joy and excitement of discovering God through observing creation and reading the Bible. When the TV is discussed as the root of a child's problem, we often discover it is the parents who love the TV and really do not want to get rid of it. We find this very disturbing because homeschooling parents have consciously separated their children from negative peer pressure in public or Christian schools, and yet their own love for the world allows the TV to educate their child in very unbiblical ways. Peer pressure fostered by the TV subtly undermines a child's potential for mature character, Biblical learning habits, and a godly lifestyle.

When the symptoms listed above are caused by TV and toys, parents have often attributed the symptoms to other causes. This leads parents to extra effort, pressure and confusion because the symptoms will not go away. Happily, our experience is that when the recommendations discussed below are implemented, the symptoms will gradually disappear.

We recommend the following:

  1. Sell the TV (or place it in a closet where considerable effort is required to view it).
  2. Sell the video games. They have no value now or in the future. Some parents listen to the notion that children are learning hand-eye coordination from such games. There may be specific exercises for specific uses, but in general, video game skills are useless. Each game requires a different reflex action which has no applicability to any other task.
  3. Use the radio, the newspaper, and Christian periodicals to keep abreast of current events.
  4. Use the newspaper for discussion of current events.
  5. Use Bible based readers as a child's first reading experience. Do not use fiction, fantasy etc. that promise to "teach" as well as entertain. When a child's first readers are boring, mindless fiction, the child learns to dislike reading. Our experience is that children who use Bible based readers as their first reading experience like to read the Bible and other literature.
  6. Use every opportunity when outdoors to discover God's character qualities in His creation. Remember, all the hands on experiments you can creatively devise will not compare with the deceptive excitement and entertainment the TV can provide. Even when a child watches a scientific experiment on video, deception is still operating. The student thinks he has done it or experienced it himself but he hasn't. He has only observed a two dimensional version of it. His senses have been exploited to believe he has personally done the experiment.

    A student who watches a documentary about Niagra Falls will think he has seen the falls and experienced the falls personally, but he has not seen the real thing! This deceptive root of TV gives a false foundation of learning and experience.

    While video can be used to supplement hands on learning and textbooks, we deceive ourselves when we think that it is a replacement .

Statistics show that a child who watches TV violence has the potential to become immune to violence and partake of violence with no culpability. It seems the same with "educational" experiences on the TV. The student passively views them and his senses are dulled to the beauty and excitement of the real event occurring in reality. TV requires no thinking - the narrator does it all for the viewer. The TV requires no energy or movement - the narrator does it all for the viewer. The TV requires no dialog - the narrator and the viewer cannot interact. The TV gives the appearance of educating the viewer, but the medium does not fit the Biblical method of education which is to:

  1. Hear
  2. Speak and discuss
  3. See
  4. Write
When the TV is substituted and the Biblical pattern of education is ignored, homeschooling parents are deceiving themselves. Only when hands on learning is accompanied by hands off the TV control will homeschooling families discover the education process in their family bearing Biblical fruit.

The Classics, Fine Arts and God's Command

Previous sections have discussed the place of entertainment in a Christian curriculum and home (and the entire home is a part of the curriculum). This section directly addresses the issue of entertainment in a "higher form", namely the classics and fine arts. We had considered writing about this for some time, but the final inspiration came when our 7 year old son, after seeing pictures in a book or encyclopedia, asked, "Was Michaelangelo the first pornographer?"

Western nations are currently suffering from declining literacy rates and a general "dumbing" down of curriculum. Christian parents, schools and publishers are sensitive to these trends and are attempting to provide education for children which offers a higher level of intellectual development. This desire leads to the temptation to turn to old (e.g. classical) material because of its high level of scholarship.

The use of classical learning in the Church (i.e. among Christians) has been debated since the first century. During most of Church history, there have been Christians who thought it was mandatory to teach classics such as Aristotle, Ptolemy and Caesar. Also, during most of Church history, there have been Christians who have objected to training Christian children in pagan ways. In our day, we have two options. One is to once again go around the circle of starting with a revival of Christian education (the modern Christian school movement and home schooling) and then corrupting it with pagan methods and material. The other choice is to break the circle and give our children the opportunity to rise to a level of faith and closeness to God which we did not know as children.

We must avoid the temptation to assume that because art, music, or literature is old, a classic or traditionally a part of high society, it is good by God's standards! We must judge materials using the standards with which God has gifted us in His Word!

In some cases, "classics" may not be morally objectionable in their own right, but we must recognize that our children will read or do only so many things during their learning years with us. Every minute we have them putting effort into something "good" detracts from effort into the "best."

Nonetheless, there is much in the classics that is wrong. First we will discuss some specific examples to give the reader an idea of things to look for when evaluating material. Second we will present a little used, but important Biblical basis.

Examples of difficulties with the "classics":

At this point, we must stand back and caution you that many old things are good! The point is that we must be discerning with old literature, art and music just as we are with modern works. For example, the works of Luther or Calvin will provide a very high standard of scholarship and at the same time valuable instruction in the things of God as well as historical perspective. The logs of Christopher Columbus or the writings of America's founding fathers are excellent studies for our children.

One important distinction we make is to the difference between entertainment and thought. We are very cautious about encouraging children to spend a great deal of time "studying" entertainment, even classical entertainment. Note that Greek plays, classic novels, and even Shakespeare are mere entertainment. Does it make sense to turn off the TV, stay home from the movies, and then direct our children to spend their days in entertainment of another form, often from a culture as corrupt as our own? We prefer to train children's minds with the living examples and thinking of real people. Great sermons, speeches, the lives of righteous men and women, essays, and documents are far too often neglected in the education of our children.

We believe that the Bible provides us with a basis on which to evaluate many issues relating to the "classics." First with regard to writings and studying pagan religions, we have instructions about not even naming pagan gods. God wants us to be free of their influences and concentrate on Him. Our God is a jealous God who wants our undivided worship and fellowship!

Exodus 23:13
13. "Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let {them} be heard from your mouth.

Joshua 23:7
7. in order that you may not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make {anyone} swear {by them,} or serve them, or bow down to them.

Furthermore, we have the testimony of David in obeying these commands,

Psalms 16:3
3. As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
4. The sorrows of those who have bartered for another {god} will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their libations of blood, Nor shall I take their names upon my lips.

When we review the New Testament, we can see that Jesus and Paul abided by this command. When Paul was on Mars Hill, he preached Jesus after a brief mention of an "unknown god." He never mentioned the names of the pagan deities.

If we meditate on these Scriptures, we will guard ourselves from detailed studies of pagan deities as is found in studies of Greek or Roman mythology!

With regard to visual art, our starting point must be the second commandment in Exodus 20 or in Deuteronomy 5 :8.

Deuteronomy 5:7
7. 'You shall have no other gods before Me.
8. 'You shall not make for yourself an idol, {or} any likeness {of} what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
9. 'You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth {generations} of those who hate Me,
10. but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
11. 'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

There is no indication that the New Covenant "fulfilled" or altered this basic command to avoid idolatry. In fact, the New Testament has many warnings to avoid idols and idolatry. In this article, we will not go into a full discussion of the second commandment, but ask that each of you meditate upon it and apply it to your selection of material, especially visual art. We believe that it is important to start our thinking with an attitude of thanksgiving to God that He has provided us a way of escape from the snares of the world, not that He is trying to restrict our "fun" or "enjoyment of art." We make the following observations about "art."

In summary, we believe that we should strive to raise a generation who walk in the power and wisdom of God as no other generation has. Does it make sense to train children at home so that we can make disciples of Christ and then train them in humanistic religion and pagan deities and idolatry? Does it make sense to avoid paganism on the TV and then subject our children to the pagan entertainment of an earlier age? :appendix.

Bible Study on Entertainment
In this discussion, we will look at the place of entertainment in our lives and the lives of our children. The Bible says very little about entertainment as we know it. It does say a lot about joy (e.g. "The joy of the Lord is my strength", and "A joyful heart is good medicine"), rejoicing, and cheerfulness (e.g. "Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises").

Some parents have difficulty in exercising authority over how much and what kind of entertainment is a part of their children's lives. However, home educating parents have an advantage in exercising such authority because they have taken total responsibility for the training process. Therefore, it is vital for Christian home educating families to develop a godly attitude towards entertainment.

Our modern culture contains massive amounts of entertainment including TV, radio, recorded music, videos, novels, magazines, comic books, spectator sports and movies. Many children (and adults) have difficulty carrying on a conversation about anything beyond entertainment and the entertainment industry. There are many magazines and TV programs which themselves are devoted to nothing but the entertainment industry. People are entertained by reading about and hearing about those in the entertainment industry! And yet, a person can live with no knowledge of entertainment and lose nothing of value. Last year's soap opera story is not only of no eternal value but also very quickly becomes totally irrelevant and forgotten. It is an interesting exercise to listen to the conversation of children and adults at church, in the work place, or anywhere and listen to the degree to which fictional events (or the play of others such as sports) occupy their thoughts and words.

Because it is important for home educating families to establish a Godly attitude towards entertainment, this essay offers the following short study of the 101st Psalm. Our objective is to develop a Godly attitude, not to develop a list of laws. If we live by a law which is relevant only in our day, then our children (and us) will not be able to retain our Godly behavior in new circumstances. The Psalm is a confession of a Godly way of life. It begins:

  1. I will sing of lovingkindness and justice.
    To Thee, O Lord, I will sing praises.
  2. I will give heed to the blameless way.
    When will You come to me?
    I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
  3. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
    I hate the work of those who fall away;
    It shall not fasten its grip on me.

The Psalm begins with a positive confession of how the psalmist will use his God given ability to sing, to sing of lovingkindness and justice (compare to Phillipians 4 :8). In verse two, the psalmist says he will walk within his own house in the integrity of his heart. So we need to consider how we walk in our own house. The Psalms often use the phrase "sing a new song" and Ephesians mentions speaking to one another in "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs". So we see that the Bible encourages us to be creative in using songs and music in our homes. Even without our encouragement, children will create new songs and hymns. Our responsibility as parents is to provide our children with a living Christian experience so that the songs which spring from their own lives will be spiritual songs. Of course, we must be ready to recognize a psalm, hymn or spiritual song from our children expressed from their heart. Their songs will be at their level of maturity and level of experience in the Lord.

Verse two starts out with a determined statement that he will give heed (attention) to the blameless way or way of integrity. We must not be deceived into thinking that those days provided a man with no opportunity to give his attention to immorality and impurity. However, in our day, because entertainment is so available, the opportunity abounds for us to give our attention to what is false (the news?), whatever is dishonorable (scandal), whatever is wrong (perversion), whatever is impure (an average movie), whatever is unlovely, or whatever is of poor repute (an average TV show). The list of items given above is the opposite of the list given in Philippians 4 :8 of things upon which we are to meditate.

The psalmist then makes a strong statement about what he will look at (could he be speaking directly of entertainment here?) when he says "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes." We believe that this is an excellent Biblical criterion for viewing TV, movies, videos, and plays.

Furthermore the next statement indicates the importance of looking beyond the appearance of entertainment into its root and author. The Psalmist says, "I hate the work of those who fall away." Do we know the lifestyles and philosophy of those who produce our entertainment? Have we trained ourselves to hate the work of those who fall away?

The psalmist then declares what in the New Testament is called "the liberty of the Spirit" when he says "It (i.e. what is worthless or the work of those who fall away) shall not fasten its grip on me ." Because of the penetration of entertainment (and we include a lot of "news" as entertainment), we must daily confess and keep the confession that "it shall not fasten its grip on me!"

The Psalm continues:

4. A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will know no evil. 5. Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy;
No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.

Here the psalmist declares that he will keep a perverse heart away from him, and he will not know evil. This confession will keep us from nearly all contemporary entertainment. Look at the strength of his statement, "I will know no evil." NO means none!

Remember that the context of this statement is still verse 3 which speaks of what he will set before his eyes. Setting something before our eyes is an intentional act. It is one thing to encounter evil because we must live in the world (remember, Jesus was a friend to sinners), but here we are speaking of the intentional act of placing something before our eyes.

He then declares his intent to destroy the one who secretly slanders his neighbor. Yet how much of our news and entertainment consists of slander and degradation of other people? Do we watch it passively? Compare a passive watching of such degradation with the psalmist's intention to "destroy".

Finally, the psalmist declares that he will not endure one with a haughty look. Think of the arrogance of news commentators when they discuss spiritual matters. And think of the pride of "entertainers" displaying their gross sin to a worshipping public. Do we endure these?

Finally, we should read the remainder of the Psalm.

6. My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me;
7. He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. 8. Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land,
So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.

The Psalmist says that he will choose who will minister to him and it will be the one who walks in a blameless way, not the popular journalist or script writer who lives in sin.

He says that the one who practices deceit shall not dwell in his house. We believe we can make two simple applications of this principle. One is that entertainment produced by deceitful men shall not be seen in our house. The other is that deceitful practice, such as news which gives only part of the story, will not dwell in our house. God wants us to train ourselves to discern lies, and we should not allow ourselves to be dulled by constant lies. Thus we should state with the psalmist, "He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me." That means that the liar will lose his power over us.

Conclusion

God, in His mercy, has delivered us from sin and its power. Christian home educating families have the opportunity to experience the excitement and joy of living in His ways while rejecting the work of those who fall away, not enduring one with a haughty look, and keeping our eyes away from worthless things and onto the faithful of the land! This short study is intended to encourage each family in the exciting task of applying these principles in their family.

Footnotes

  1. For a complete discussion of the concept of diversity among types of people within the absolute truths of righteousness and sin, see the FHC pamphlet "Diversity and Absolutes - A Christian Approach to Individual Differences with Application to Home Education". This pamphlet discusses how differences in learning styles related to personality affect which kind of curriculum works well with different children. FHC also provides a book, Personality, Education, and the Bible with a very detailed study of personality differences.

Copyright by Earl & Diane Rodd