I was born in the baby-boomer generation when kindergarten was not as common as it is today. Last week I was visiting in the very building where I attended kindergarten and they had a large picture and plaque honoring one of my teachers, Mrs. Elanor Bridges.
Years ago we had a special day in our church to honor people that had influenced our lives. I contacted Mrs. Bridges and invited her to be there along with others that had taught me.
That day she sat on the front row, aged but still with perfect posture, and I was so delighted she was there. We talked later and I discovered that one of her children was a missionary in a foreign land. I hadn’t seen Mrs. Bridges in over forty years.
When I was in my old kindergarten school two weeks ago I found that she had passed away last year. I shall always be grateful to her for her kindness to me at a very sensitive and tender age. I have nothing but good memories of that class. It was my first formal classroom setting.
Here is a simple, but important question: when is the best time to begin educating your children? The Bible speaks to the issue plainly and it might surprise and even confound you.
The etymology of the word “kindergarten” has German origins which means “children’s garden”. It refers to a time when seeds are planted in the mind and heart of a child that will blossom one day, for good or for bad.
I believe strongly in academics and learning. The Bible speaks about loving God with our “minds” (Matthew 22:37). We ought to do our best to reach our potential with the mental horsepower that God has given to us. I have a very deep respect for all of my teachers in elementary, junior high (the term when I was in school), high school, and college.
The majority of them know of my gratitude because I have thanked them verbally and in writing. Please don’t take this as boasting. I only mention it to show how serious I am about those that have invested in my life academically. God is not honored by our ignorance or mental laziness.
Having said (and sincerely meaning) that, academic training is not the most important education a child can receive. The most important education a person can have is about God, His Word, and His ways.
I will develop this further in a later post, but I want to focus on this issue: when is the best time to start teaching your children about the Bible and Who God is?
Paul wrote his protege’ Timothy and noted that “…from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures…” (II Timothy 3:15) That is a powerful statement. If you accept the fact that the Bible is totally without error and authoritative then it has a bearing on when you begin the spiritual training of your child.
How old was Timothy when it said he knew the Bible when he was a “child”? One way you interpret the Bible is to compare the same term and it’s usage in other places to discover it’s meaning.
Allow me to be a bit technical here. The New Testament was written in Greek and the word “child” in II Timothy 3:15 is the Greek word “brephos”. It is a fascinating study to trace how it is translated in other places.
The very same word is used of a baby in a mother’s womb (Luke 1:41). It is used of a brand new baby (Luke 2:12) and young babies (Luke 18:15). Also, it is used of nursing babies (I Peter 2:2) and young children (Acts 7:19).
Now if you are tracking with me so far you may be pushing back that this young pastor had known the Bible since he was a “child” in the sense outlined in the paragraph above. Can a child learn and know things at these tender ages, even in the womb?
Well, it all depends on what you think about the Bible itself. As I mentioned I believe in the 100% accuracy and authority of God’s Word and that God meant exactly what He said, literally, not metaphorically or in any figure of speech.
Biblical training doesn’t begin when a child is four or five years of age, but when they are in the womb. The training of the mind requires certain abilities, but the training of the spirit is more than about reading, writing, and arithmetic. It involves educating and developing the conscience. The Bible says that both John the Baptist and Jesus were “strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80; 2:40).
This is in contrast where the Bible states that Jesus developed intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially – “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”. (Luke 2:52)
Being “strong in spirit” (which a child may be) is different from comprehending academic information. Consider this, the Lord Jesus (the Creator of the human brain as stated in John 1:1-3) literally amazed the most educated people of His day with His answers and wisdom (Luke 2:46-47).
If we focus on educating the mind of our child to the exclusion of his spirit we are equipping them with facts without a moral compass to restrain them and guide them. The Bible is more than a book of facts and history, though it is that. It is a living book that speaks to the deepest part of a person (Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63).
According to the way the word “child” is used in II Timothy 3:15 and other places, this educating of the spirit can even begin in the womb.
When we were expecting our first child I discovered this truth and, to be honest, struggled with it because it didn’t make “sense” to my mind. However, I could not refute what the Bible said about it and I believed what God wrote and my spirit was at peace with following God’s directives.
I came home after work one day after learning what I have just written about and after supper I asked Paula if she would do me a favor. She said, “Sure, what is it?” I paused and thought, “Here goes, she is going to think I am nuts”.
I told her what I had learned and my request was that when she read the Bible during her time alone with the Lord that she would read it aloud. Of course, my reasoning was that our child (Paula was about six months pregnant with Jeremiah, our oldest) would be the beneficiary of this and it would begin to educate his spirit.
I was shocked when Paula said, “Rick, I’ve already been doing that for several months”. She had the intuitiveness to do so, but without being aware of the biblical reasons.
Whether or not you accept my premise as far as how far back you can begin to educate your child’s spirit, it is without question something we must do so before they are four or five years old (kindergarten age). We are planting seeds in the “child’s garden” of their mind and spirit. Someone is going to plant seeds there; God has given the task to parents.
One writer wrote, “O God, thou has taught me from my youth…” (Psalm 71:17) I think he is referring to his spirit. We cannot wait and be passive about educating the heart and mind of our children about God.
He commanded each of us to “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Children and teenagers need the encouragement and help of their parents to do this. Their young years are not to be wasted years, but times where we invest in their hearts the Word of God.
When is the best time to start educating your children? It is today. Take advantage of every opportunity. Read the Bible to them, play good music in your home, don’t argue and fight in front of them. We are shaping and training our children far more than we know – and one day we, and they, will live with the results.