Family Ministry Today

The Center for Christian Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Book Review: ‘Perspectives On Your Child’s Education: Four Views.’ Edited by Timothy Paul Jones

by Michael Davis – Oct 11

Perspectives on Your Child’s Education: Four Views. By Mark Eckel, G. Tyler Fischer, Troy Temple, and Michael S. Wilder. Edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009, 144 pp., $19.99.

Every year millions of parents find themselves asking this question: “Where should I send my child to school?” This question drives the content of the eight chapters in Perspectives on Your Child’s Education. Editor Timothy Paul Jones sets the stage for a lively point-counterpoint presentation of schooling choices for Christian parents by sharing a short history of schools. Jones rightly concludes that, “Parents were viewed as the persons ultimately responsible for their children’s education” (6). That responsibility has not changed. Each of the presenters claim the authority of Deuteronomy 6:7-9 as they make their argument for what they consider “the right choice” for Christian parents.

Four contributors, each a theorist as well as a practitioner, present their personal choice of possibilities for Christian families (2). Troy Temple, professor at Southern Seminary, advocates for public schooling but with a distinct purpose. Temple illustrates how his family serves in the public system as a means of fulfilling the Great Commission. Temple suggests that public education is not for every family in every location. He also underscores the truth that “every parent has been called to homeschool,” that is, parents are responsible to disciple their own children in the home (11).

G. Tyler Fischer, headmaster of Veritas Academy, an open-admission Christian school in Pennsylvania, insists that his approach is the most effective for educating Christian children and affecting non-Christians in the world. This approach allows for a delicate balance of Christian and non-Christian students based on careful admission practices. Fischer boldly suggests that even non-Christian parents should avoid public schools because they should not “want their children to be trained in an incoherent worldview” (42). Fischer also struggles with the truth that no school is “ir-religious” because all education, by its very nature, is theological (41).

Mark Eckel, an educational consultant, advocates for covenantal Christian schools. These schools intentionally limit their enrollment to students from Christian homes. Eckel summarizes the strengths of his approach in three words: wholeness, meaning, and coherence (78). It is the clear purpose of covenantal Christian schools to “partner with Christian parents to train students to think Christianly in every area of life and academics” (61).

The fourth approach available to Christian parents is homeschooling, advocated by Michael S. Wilder. Wilder serves as a professor at Southern Seminary and has broad experience in all four approaches. Wilder builds his chapter on three questions. “Who is responsible for my child’s education?” “What is the goal of education?” “How should my Christian beliefs influence my educational decisions?” Originally an opponent of homeschooling, Wilder states, “We did not begin with an ideological commitment to Christian education, and we certainly did not begin with a passion for homeschooling. It came as the result of a journey, and it provides a unique perspective on the process” (92). In brief, Wilder agrees with his co-writers that parents are primarily responsible for educating their children, the goal is to honor God, and parents must draw upon their own faith to determine where their child will be educated.

Although this book makes it clear there is no “one Christian approach” to the Christian education of our children, the writers present not only four practical options, but also biblical and theological foundations for making an informed decision. It is also clear that God calls families to one approach or another, at least for a time.

This diminutive book will serve Christian parents well as they reflect on their child’s educational future. Christian educators would do well to utilize it in the church context as an aid to help parents understand their role in educating their young. The book underscores at least three truths: all parents should be home-schoolers (disciplers) of their children, no approach is right for every child in every context, and no decision on education is permanent. Parents should review their choices annually and make adjustments as necessary.

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 3.2 (Spring/Summer 2013).]