Curriculum is more than just a set of textbooks for your student. It impacts your student's worldview and thinking now and in the future. What do you really know and understand about your child's school's curriculum?
The term curriculum is often used interchangeably with the term textbooks. When asked what curriculum is used, the reply will often include the name of a textbook publisher. However, curriculum is so much more. The curriculum of a school includes the educational objectives or “standards” of that school and all of the means used to meet those objectives, of which textbooks are only one part. The curriculum includes field trips, special projects, guest speakers, assessment tools and methods, and teacher-specific management activities such as reading groups, learning centers, journaling, peer-tutoring, mentoring, and so much more. All of these methods are purposefully planned to achieve the goals set forth by the school board and administration. In most cases, the textbooks chosen are just the backbone. Teachers create the nerve system that carries the message to the individual parts (students) and causes them to work.
This is not to say that textbooks aren’t important. They are very important, and are an accurate expression of the educational ideologies of the school. Textbooks guide teachers in their understanding of what is expected and keeps consistency in grade-level expectations, preparing students for the next grade. Textbooks contain most of the written material that comprises the overall curriculum, so it is important that they are biblically-integrated, giving Christian teachers the greatest opportunity to teach a biblical worldview thoroughly and consistently.
Since curriculum is so much more than choosing the best publisher for specific subject areas, the freedom that Christian schools enjoy in choosing their curriculum is one of the most important things to consider when deciding between Christian schools and public schools.
Who is deciding the curriculum in public schools? More and more, in recent years, it is policymakers and wealthy foundations whose humanistic ideals compel them to seek to reform a broken system. The only problem is, they are “looking at schools from an altitude of 20,000 feet and seeing them as objects to be moved around by big ideas and great plans.” This quote comes from a book by Diane Ravitch, educational historian and former assistant secretary of education, titled The Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010). Although Ravitch is advocating for the rescue of the public school system (not advocating for private schools), she provides great insights into the inner-workings of educational policy and reform. She gives this enlightening description,
A policymaker . . . is required to plan for the future and make bets about a course of action that is likely to bring about improvements. Policymakers have a theory of action, even if they can’t articulate it, and they implement plans based on their theory of action, their guess about how the world works. . . . Instead of dealing with rancorous problems like how to teach reading or how to improve testing, one can redesign the management and structure of the school system and concentrate on incentives and sanctions. One need not know anything about children or education (p. 11).
More recently, Ravitch wrote a blog post, voicing her concerns over the Common Core State Standards, the latest “theory of action” brought about by policymakers and wealthy foundations:
The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time. Read more.
Thankfully, most Christian schools are not in a position to be dictated to because of the fear of loss of funding. Most Christian schools have proven that tried-and-true, traditional methods of teaching still work. A good Christian school will stay abreast of current research and continually seek to improve their methodologies, but will stay above the fray. They have the freedom to make choices that are best for their students, teachers, and community.
Curriculum as a Means to an End
Most Christian parents would agree that the purpose of raising children is to reach their hearts with the message of salvation and to train them to serve God with their whole hearts and lives. The best way to prepare them for a life of service is to fill their toolbox with every tool at your disposal so that when God calls them to do something, the basic tools are there. The Christian parent whose main concern is that their child love God with their whole heart may not care if that child grows up to be a janitor or a homemaker—noble professions which don’t require a high level of education—as long as they love and serve God; but what if God has gifted that child and wants to use him or her as a physicist or state senator—no more noble than the previous professions, but requiring a higher level of education—for His glory? It’s not up to you to decide what God will call them to do one day. It is up to you to give them the best education possible so that when He does call them, they can take the next step.
We want to help parents.
At Marquette Manor Baptist Academy, we understand the importance of finding the right education for your children. We want to offer you this free eBook. You can read over it and take it with you as you visit the Christian schools you're interested in for your children. We hope it will be a helpful guide as you seek answers to important questions regarding the opportunities in and philosophies of the schools you are praying about.
Written by education and school admissions professionals, it includes 10 suggestions for narrowing the options and making a selection and 13 questions to ask during your school visits. We have included the best practice answers you should hear.
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