The Biblical view of education is not clearly delineated at any point within either the Old or New Testament but there are some passages throughout that indicate parents should be the lead teachers in a child’s life. Homeschooling, therefore, definitely fits in to a Biblical viewpoint on education. But where does unschooling fit in? It is important to first define unschooling in order to understand it’s relevance to Biblical teachings.
Unschooling is a relatively loose term that describes a theory of homeschooling that allows for more freedom than a typical educational setting, either at home or in the school system. Unschooling allows for the belief that children are innately curious and eager to learn but that standard curriculum, public school settings, and rigid time lines and rules inhibit those desires.
Memorizing math facts or historical dates on a timeline are rather boring activities and do have a tendency to squash natural curiosity. Additionally, many teachers and parent/teachers limit questions and comments during regular lesson time because there are so many things to get done and so many children to listen to; a child who is eager to ask questions and get more information will eventually become disheartened and learn that asking questions only leads to reprimands.
Standardized testing, which applies in both the public and homeschool setting, exacerbates the problem as teachers are preparing their students to take and pass tests demonstrating what they have learned. The unschool theory posits that there is no way to determine which information a child should have learned by a particular age or grade so standardized tests are simply a waste of time. An unschooled child will learn through life and her interests rather than a curriculum. So how does this definition relate to a Biblical view of education? It depends on the interpretation of education in the Bible; there are two viewpoints that stand out.
The Bible indicates that parents should be the primary teachers in a child’s life so unschooling fits the mold on that count. The Bible encourages parents to put religious teaching at the forefront of a child’s education and to filter all other teaching through that lens. Unschooling allows for that to happen because parents do not adhere to a particular curriculum that might inhibit Biblical teachings. Unschooling parents can choose to teach math, science, history, reading, etc directly from a Biblical standpoint because they are not governed by a state law that prohibits it. Further, Jesus teaches that children are precious and should be treated as such; an argument could be made that unschooling follows that admonishment by allowing children to learn and grow at their own pace.
On the other hand, scholars throughout the Bible who were educated in Judaic Law were taught much as public school children are taught today. Students were expected to memorize essentially the entire Torah and, as time went on, later Books added to the Canon. Rabbis expected their students to recite entire verses from memory in response to a question or challenge of Biblical teachings and might be expelled from the program if they could not keep up.
It is safe to say that unschooling fits a Biblical view of education because it allows for parents to frame a child’s education through Biblical teachings and tenets. A child who is allowed to explore their world from the safety of a religious background would certainly be at home anywhere in Biblical history.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.