True Education as Seen in the Childhood of Jesus

In the blog post yesterday we saw that we could learn the method of true education from studying the life of Christ, as He is “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) Then we looked at how Jesus educated His disciples and learned to principles: that He was their close friend and that He taught them by living with them, while eating, resting, walking, ministering and so forth. Today I want to look at how Jesus was educated as a Child.

As homeschoolers, we often love to say that Jesus was homeschooled. And there’s no doubt that He was. Some will argue different reasons as to why He was homeschooled and I’m not going to address any of those, I just want to learn how He was homeschooled, because it was clearly a success. The Bible says, “The Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40) But how did He receive such commendation? How was it that at twelve years old he could baffle the professors in the educational center of the country? Was He taught by angels? I’m sure He did have divine assistance in His education, but did you know that that special attention is promised to our children as well? “By prayer you may gain an experience that will make your ministry for your children a perfect success.” (Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, p. 131.) So aim high and pray hard.

Jesus grew up when the education system was a mess. “With the people of that age the value of all things was determined by outward show… The educators of the time sought to command respect by display and ostentation.” (Education, p. 77) Sound familiar? Schools do everything to get their brightest students into competitions and into the limelight to show how successful their method of education is. See nothing has changed. “To all this the life of Jesus presented a marked contrast. His life demonstrated the worthlessness of those things that men regarded as life’s great essentials.” (Education, p. 77) I wonder if some of the things that we consider essentials are worthless. That’s a scary thought. Do we sometimes get the priorities of education all mixed up? “Born amidst surroundings the rudest, sharing a peasant’s home, a peasant’s fare, a craftsman’s occupation, living a life of obscurity, identifying Himself with the world’s unknown toilers,—amidst these conditions and surroundings,—Jesus followed the divine plan of education. The schools of His time, with their magnifying of things small and their belittling of things great, He did not seek.” (Education, p. 77) His mother didn’t print off the local state’s scope and sequence to figure out what He was supposed to be learning when. He didn’t worry about how He was going to score on standardized tests. He wasn’t at all worried about the state standards or what others would say when they heard that He was being homeschooled by a poor peasant lady, yet He could baffle professors at the age of twelve.

So here’s a simple, yet hard question for us: which do we want to follow? Our local state’s scope and sequence or the divine plan? No matter what the pressure is to make sure that our kids are keeping up with everybody else, I’m sure that our answer is the divine plan. Here are some questions about the true education that have crossed my mind before, so maybe you have thought about them too: Is it possible to follow the divine plan in our day and age? Does the divine plan prepare people for heaven, but not for a successful life here on earth? Let’s take a look at it and see if we can learn the answers.

“His education was gained directly from the Heaven-appointed sources; from useful work, from the study of the Scriptures and of nature, and from the experiences of life—God’s lesson books, full of instruction to all who bring to them the willing hand, the seeing eye, and the understanding heart.” (Education, p. 77)

When I first read this, I thought how did He learn history and literature and mathematics and grammar and all of those important things? Those weren’t mentioned in that list. The answer is right there though, so let’s dissect it just a little. There are four lesson books mentioned that Jesus learned from.

The first instruction book mentioned is “useful work”. What can be learned from useful work? Jesus was a carpenter’s son, so besides learning how to work (one of the lost arts in our day and age, that we need to be teaching our kids, if we want them to succeed in an economy that seems to continue to dive) think of all the mathematics that He had to be trained in. He learned basic math, of course, but He also must have been well versed in geometry and trigonometry (which requires algebra) as well. I am confident that He was taught the Pythagorean Theorem as it is used often by carpenters and had been written around 500 years before His birth. He was a very good carpenter and things were always straight and square and perfect. I know He had learned His math well.

Also Jesus learned how to turn His usefulness into service for others. He was always considerate of the needy, even of the animals, and would lend a helping hand wherever He was able. It was by beginning at His young age of giving of Himself to others that prepared Him for His ministry when His life was given in the ultimate sacrifice for us. Don’t we want to prepare our children to live unselfish lives that are for the benefit of those around them rather than just for themselves? We should start them now.

The second book mentioned was the “Scriptures”. What things can be taught from the Scriptures and from inspired writings? I believe that sometimes in our haste to provide something superb for our children, that we overlook what is available to us in the Scriptures. I do not believe that you can find a finer piece of literature anywhere as what has been given to us by inspiration. So why do we drill our children in Shakespear and other agnostic authors when we have at our fingertips literature like Psalms or the Gospel of John or Desire of Ages? From studying the Scriptures, Jesus was able to develop a superb understanding of language, grammar and literature. Because of Jesus study of the Scriptures, He was also well versed in history. At the time of His birth the Old Testament was a comprehensive history book from the beginning of time to what was then modern day history, and still remains the best history book of all time. Other subjects that are covered well in inspiration are: philosophy, psychology, law and order, poetry, music, grammar and language, even political science, as well as more that I have not even thought of. In Jesus’ day there is no doubt that the Scriptures were the best textbook around. Could it still be true? It must be.

An interesting note on this book, the Scriptures, is the only book of the four mentioned that came in print form. It was the only one that was somewhat like a textbook. Learning from other avenues than printed books must be part of the divine plan of education.

The third book mentioned was “nature”. What all does nature involve? He obviously had good understanding of natural science—the birds of the air, the lilies of the valley and so on,—but how about the physical sciences, were they included in His study of science? He made reference to both the study of chemistry and physics in the Sermon on the Mount, using salt and light as examples. He even gave an example of engineering, in the parable of the men who built a house on a rock and one on the sand. Jesus had a very broad and thorough understanding of the sciences. It seems to me that His understanding was even considerably beyond the time period in which He lived. And this method still works. Perhaps the greatest scientist known to us today is Isaac Newton. He figured out the basics of calculus and physics by closely observing nature. His mind was strong, because of his Bible study and because He was willing to observe things and question things to a degree beyond the normal person. Same with Galileo, he revolutionized the world by taking time to observe the processes of nature around him and helped us to understand not only astronomy but also many aspects of physics much better.

The fourth book mentioned for use in Jesus’ education was the “experiences of life”. Why are life experiences better than a textbook? They just stick better. Have you ever heard the saying, “I guess he won’t learn until he attends the University of Hard Knocks”? We all know that experience is the best teacher of all. You can read all year about how to make bread, but if you never make bread are you an expert? Of course not. This is true of reading, writing and arithmetic as well. You can read and read about different subjects, but if you can’t taste or feel it or experience it somehow, eventually it will slip from your mind. For some reason, I clearly remember taking a test in World History on inventions my junior in academy. I studied hard for that test and got an A. So I should still know the stuff, right? I can only remember two things from that test. One of them is that John Deere invented the steel tipped plow. That one stuck because I had a little brother who collected John Deere toys so when I studied about Deere, I told my little brother all about it. It turned into an experience for me. The rest of the inventors, I can’t remember for anything. Whenever you can help your children to experience what they are to be learning do it. That way, they just might remember it.

Also don’t forget to capitalize on the day-to-day experiences as teaching opportunities. This comes naturally when you are dealing with a two-year-old. If he touches the stove and gets burned, you immediately are teaching him what “hot” means and so on and so forth. But it works with older children too. They can learn by observing the results of actions as well as things going on around them. At our house, we have a short zip line that my children love to ride. It has a bungee chord at the end that stops the ride, so that they don’t run into a tree. A few days ago I noticed they were getting closer and closer to the tree and mentioned it to my husband. He went out and tightened up the cable and took the opportunity to explain to the kids that heat makes metal expand and so the cable had increased it’s length a little now that the days are warming up. My kids were amazed by their science lesson and came and taught me all about it later. Capitalize on every life experience that you can turn into a lesson, those lessons will stick much longer than the ones that are covered in textbooks.

There is so much more about education that we can learn from the life of Jesus, but what we’ve looked at is Jesus was able to cover His academic classes with books other than textbooks. And that academics, while they need to be learned, aren’t everything to education. Character development, learning good work ethics and learning how to think and understand nature and science and life experiences are just as much a part of education. My all time favorite definition of education is: “True education does not ignore the value of scientific knowledge or literary acquirements; but above information it values power; above power, goodness; above intellectual acquirements, character.” (Education, p. 225)

If it is our goal to be preparing our children for usefulness both in this life and the life to come, there isn’t a better model to follow than what we can find in the life of Jesus and isn’t that what He promised when He said “I am the way, the truth and the life”?

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