Pre-School and Elementary School: One of the first thoughts of Christian parents when they have children is how they are going to raise them and school them. Will they home school or look for a good Christian school. Both could be good options depending upon where you live, as well as the ability and commitment of parents. But home-schooling is a whole lot easier and more beneficial than most parents realize when you have a guide and plan that is solidly Biblical and Reformed, that is laid out in a schedule, and is moreover directed by a commitment to discipleship and building godly character as well as strengthening the family together. It is important for Christians to have a plan for raising their children and for their education that is solidly Biblical, Christ-centered, and glorifying to God. To begin with you may want to listen to my series of sermons on Building a Godly Christian Family, especially the sermons on The Basics of Biblical Parenting, Christ’s Favor to Little Children, Family Religion, and Family Worship. There is nothing more important for a child’s upbringing than the three-fold cord of 1. Prayer and the worship of God, 2. The reading of the Bible together, and 3. The love of parents toward one another.
A. Pre-school (Birth-K/1-4 years old). For the first 4-5 years of a child’s life, the mother should have a central and prominent role in nurturing, caring for, loving, and training a child every day. The father should lead the family in worship, in reading the Bible, directing the home, loving his wife, and making time for his family in the morning and in the evening to care for, to teach, and to train his children in the things of God. There is nothing in life more valuable form parents than to spend time together with their small children. Central to this is the reading of the Bible, the memorization of Scripture, learning the children’s catechism (Milk for Babes), as well as learning psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. There is always plenty of time of course to play on the floor with blocks, toys, or balls. The focus of a parent’s attention should try be placed as much as possible on teaching their children to read well, to memorize Scripture, to sing praise to God, to color Bible sheets and other wholesome God-centered activities, with as little as possible such things as TV, video games, collecting toys, and participating in out of the home programs. Between 1-2 years old, parents also need to carefully and graciously apply discipline to their children when they are disobedient by admonishing them and if necessary spanking them, trusting God that the rod and rebuke give wisdom. Prayer, forgiveness and a hug of affection should always be given afterward though. Children should never be physically or emotionally abused nor should they ever be pampered. Both are destructive to the proper raising of cheerful and obedient children who love God. During these formative years, a child needs their parent’s love and discipline, a wholesome environment with little to no entertainment, and continual instruction and encouragement, coupled with the knowledge of Scripture and sound doctrine from the Children’s Catechism. Trips out to the zoo, to parks, and to playgrounds are also important. But Scripture and the Catechism should never be neglected. Without these, a child’s education and upbringing is set up for possible ruin in later life. And by all means, children should learn from the beginning if possible to sit in Church with their parents and participate in worship, being as quiet and respectful as possible. While nurseries are tolerable, children’s church has no Scriptural basis whatsoever and therefore no promise of God’s blessing. Children age 3 and above should therefore be learning to sit in church, without the need of a nursery. Psalm 8; Isa.29; Mt.20 suffer the little children; Eph.6.
Pre-School Education during these years should focus on learning the ABC’s, learning to communicate, learning to read the Bible, learning the Children’s Catechism, learning to sing hymns, learning to count, learning to share, and learning to form good habits and disciplines in life that are healthy and respectful as well as to avoid various dangers and evils in the world. Mastering the Children’s Catechism and the 52 Scripture lessons should be a primary focus at the Pre-school level.
- Milk for Babes: Children’s Catechism
- Isaac Watts – Divine and Moral Songs for Children
- Michael Waite – Helpful Hal’s Treasury of Christian Virtues
- Kids Sing Praise CD’s
- Judy Rodgers – Musical CD’s
- Steve Green – Hide em in Your Heart CD’s
B. Elementary (1-4 Grade/ 5-10 years old). At the elementary level of education and discipleship, children should be learning to quote Scripture, sing hymns and praise choruses from memory, recite the Catechism, form godly habits of discipline, show respect and obedience to their parents, as well as repent of and resist patterns of sin and idolatry in the world. It is best to keep your children away from the TV as much as possible, as well as from all things associated with super-heroes, most Disney movies, and the ungodly forms of music in the world today. Families should learn to enjoy time together, as well as wholesome entertainment together; such as, Baroque and Classical music, or Hallmark movies. Elementary level school classes should focus on the fundamentals; on reading, writing, and arithmetic, with a focus on reading the Bible and memorizing the Children’s Catechism, the foundations of Creation science, and the basics of world and church history. At this age, we use Bob Jones and A Beka textbooks for Math, Science, and Grammar, as well as History. For reading we use the Bible, the Children’s Catechism, the Shorter Catechism, Talk Thru the Bible, Christ in all the Scriptures; and a long list of books and articles on church history and world history. It is at this age that children should begin their study of world and church history, with some readings on their own, as well as readings done by parents for the children. The focus of their education though should be on reading the Bible, Catechism, Hymns and Scripture Songs, and the great Christian classics. Children at this age are often able to read abridged versions of the Christian classics or smaller parts of the great works. For instance, an 8 year old child is better off struggling to read Augustine’s Confessions, Thomas Kempis The Imitation of Christ, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and John Calvin’s Instruction in Faith, rather than Newberry classics, Harry Potter, or Agatha Christie murder mysteries, which are profane.
The Foundations of Elementary Education begin with what I consider the Fundamental Four: Grammar, Spelling, Mathematics, and Science. We use Bob Jones and A Beka textbooks for each of these primary subjects, all of which can be accomplished on schedule with a daily program in the morning from 9-12am. The rest of the day can be devoted to what I consider the Faith Building Four: Bible, Theology, History, and Literature. These can be accomplished in the afternoon 1-3pm, and in the evening from 6-8pm.
1. Elementary Bible Survey: There are several books that are of great profit for children at the Elementary school level (Grades 1-4). These are to be used along with the Bible Reading Plan that consists of studying the Old Testament one year, and the New Testament the following year, consecutively year after year. These books can be read to (or with) the children or students. I do not recommend the use of Bible story books as they undermine the authority of Scripture and lead families and children away from the proper daily reading of the Bible.
- A.M. Hodgkin – Christ in all the Scriptures
- Wilkinson & Boa Bible Handbook
- Brett Woody – Bible History Catechism
- Jonathan Edwards – History of the Work of Redemption
2. Elementary Christian Doctrine: The learning of Christian doctrine at this age and level is primarily but not entirely through the use and memorization of Creeds and Catechisms. Children’s Catechism of 52 Questions is still of great use at this age; but many children may need to advance to the Family Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism by 7-8 years of age. The occasional use and reading of the Heidelberg Catechism can also be used on occasion at this level, especially Q#1.
- The Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed
- Milk for Babes: Children’s Catechism (52 Questions)
- Food for Families: A Family Catechism (200 Questions)
- The Westminster Shorter Catechism
- John Calvin – Truth for all Time
- The Reformed Confessions (some may be able to read them by age 9-10)
3. Elementary History: The learning of history at this age should be devoted to the big picture focusing on God’s saving purposes. Many of these can be read to (or with) the children or students.
- Jonathan Edwards – History of the Work of Redemption
- Brett Woody – Lessons in Church History
- A Beka – World History
- A Beka – History of the United States
- Bob Jones – World History
- Wikipedia Articles on subjects of World and Church History
- S.M. Houghton – Sketches from Church History
- Leigh Churchill – Blood of Martyrs
- Leigh Churchill – The Birth of Europe
- Leigh Churchill – The Age of Knights
- Richard Hannula – Trial and Triumph
- Richard Hannula – Heralds of the Reformation
- Richard Hannula – For Christ’s Crown (The Puritans and Covenanters)
- B.K. Kuiper – The Church in History
4. Elementary Christian Devotion: The cultivation of godly habits of devotion at this age and level should focus on simple things such as: memorizing Scripture and hymns, and coloring sheets of Bible verses. In the study of history, there are also many works of Christian devotion that can be read in abridged form.
- The Trinity Hymnal and Psalter
- John Bunyan – Pilgrim’s Progress (children’s version)
- John Bunyan – The Holy War (children’s version)
- Matthew Henry – The Secret of Communion with God
- John Owen – Communion with God
- Thomas Kempis – The Imitation of Christ
- John Calvin – The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life
- Horatius Bonar – Follow the Lamb
- Brett Woody – Sermons on Loving God and Learning to Follow Jesus Christ
A Word about Discipline: It is very important for parents to be consistent and thoroughly Biblical in the disciplining of their children as well as in the discipling of their children. Discipline should always be done in love, with the intended purpose of bringing the child to repentance and contrition. Prov.29:15 says, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom. But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Hebrews 12:6-7 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” Parents should be faithful to reprove their children for sin and to discipline them, but do so in love for them, praying for them and with them, and showing them love and affection when they repent and ask forgiveness. 1 John 1:8-2:2. Thomas Watson said, “The showers of repentance that come with rebuke and discipline should be followed by the golden sunshine of joy and cheerfulness in the knowledge of Christ and His forgiving grace.”
One final point to make. I have found that most children’s books are expensive and largely useless and ineffective, unless they are the kind that parents can read to their small children with pictures in order to help them follow the story. Parents should read to their small children daily, as well as pray with them and for them. When children are able to read on their own, it is much better to have children read abridged versions of Christian classics, or several chapters of excellent reformed and Puritan books, not fantasy or fiction. And when children do read and finish a book, parents should reward them! It makes their reading a double blessing and encourages them to read and learn more. Also keep your children away from profane literature such as Harry Potter or C.S. Lewis, as well as from ungodly videos like Veggie Tales. These are in the long run almost as evil as pagan music, TV sitcoms, and Hollywood movies. They are unScriptural and ungodly.
A Daily Home-School Schedule can look like this:
- Rise at 6:30am
- Family Worship and Bible Reading 7-7:30am
- Breakfast 7:30-8:30am
- Bible Survey and Doctrine 8;30-9am
- Grammar and Spelling 9-10am
- Math 10-11am
- Science and Crafts 11-12am
- Lunch 12-1pm
- History 1-2pm
- Literature/Devotion 2-3pm
- OPEN 3-5pm
- Dinner 5-6pm
- OPEN 6-8pm (We often use this time for reading the Puritans and for cleaning up)
- Family Worship and Bible Reading 8-8:30
- Bedtime 9/10pm
Children’s Hymn: Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the World
Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world; Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. He came from His Father, from heaven above. He died for my sins that I might be saved and loved. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the World; Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. He rose from the dead with life and victory. He sent forth His Spirit to live inside of me. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the World.
Brett Woody, Pastor-Teacher