An Expert Synthesis of Christian School Curriculums and Recommendations for Teachers and Administrators
As COVID-19 closed the doors of in-person learning for many public schools, enrollment at Christian schools across the country has skyrocketed.
Parents, teachers, and administrators who never before thought twice about their involvement in public schools, are now exploring alternative education options, one of them being Christian schooling.
There are many questions parents, teachers, and administrators may ask when considering Christian education including what a Christian school curriculum actually is or means.
A few of the main questions involve what Christians schools teach, what curriculums are used, and what it means to teach from a biblical worldview.
- What Do Christian Schools Teach?
- What Types of Curriculums Do Christian Schools Use?
- How Can I Tell If My Christian School Is Using Curriculum to Teach from a Biblical Worldview?
What Do Christian Schools Teach?
Christian schools teach the same basic subjects taught in public schools:
Just as with public schools, in the upper grade levels, these five primary subjects branch off into more narrow specialties:
In addition to these core subjects, most Christian schools also teach Bible. In some schools, the typical school day is extended 30-60 minutes to allow time for daily Bible instruction. In other schools, Bible instruction may only be included once or twice per week.
The main distinction between core subjects taught in public and Christian schools is that most Christian schools seek to teach each subject from a biblical worldview.
Some schools do this more successfully than others, as we will discuss below.
What Types of Curriculums Do Christian Schools Use?
Much of what is taught in any school is determined by the curriculums used.
Most curriculums, whether produced by secular or Christian publishers, align to state and Common Core standards.
1. Popular Curriculums used by Christian Schools
Many Christian schools adopt curricula published by Christian publishing houses.
Other Christian schools adopt curricula published by mainstream publishing houses.
2. The Ongoing Debate - Christian Curriculum or Secular Curriculum?
The use of Christian or secular curriculum in Christian schools is frequently debated.
Distinctly Biblical Preference
Many teachers, administrators, and parents prefer the use of Christian curriculum. They believe that in order for education to be distinctly biblical, all material presented must come from a biblical perspective.
It makes sense that materials coming from Christian publishers would better equip children with a biblical perspective on the subject. (In a later section we will discuss how well Christian publishers are accomplishing this goal.)
Academic Standard & Interface With Secular Culture
However, some teachers, administrators, and parents prefer that their Christian schools use curriculums published by mainstream publishing houses.
This desire stems from two sources of concern.
First, many argue that Christian curriculums do not have the same academic rigor as those published by mainstream publishing houses.
Additionally, some worry that students who are only exposed to Christian ideas in the classroom will be left unprepared to evaluate secular philosophies once they graduate.
3. Which Approach Is Best?
The million-dollar question regarding Christian School curriculum is, “Which approach is best?”
Should Christian schools use Christian or secular curriculums?
Qualification & Competence of Teachers & Administrators
The answer to this question depends on the biblical literacy and worldview formation of the teachers and administrators at the school.
Conditions For Implementing A Christian Curriculum
If most teachers and administrators at a school have not received any formal training in interpreting Scripture and analyzing worldviews (either in a lay-level at church or in a formal academic setting), it may be best for the school to implement Christian curriculum.
This will ensure that non-biblical worldviews are not directly taught as truth in the classroom.
Conditions For Implementing A Secular Curriculum
If most teachers and administrators have received formal training in interpreting Scripture and analyzing worldviews, it may be best for the school to implement a secular curriculum.
This recommendation may come as a surprise to many.
However, using a secular curriculum can be beneficial for two reasons.
- First, some of the Christian curriculums on the market do not meet the academic rigor of secular publishing houses. Schools striving for academic excellence should ensure that they are providing students with appropriate academic challenges, whether that be through Christian or mainstream curriculums.
- Second, including secular content within the Christian classroom provides opportunities for students to encounter and evaluate competing worldviews while they are still under the guidance of Christian educators. Teachers who have been well trained in interpreting Scripture and evaluating worldviews can use the secular content to help students carefully evaluate ideas and hold them up to the truth of Scripture, thus preparing students for life outside the classroom.
How Can I Tell If My Christian School Is Using A Curriculum to Teach from a Biblical Worldview?
Whether Christian schools use Christian or secular curriculum, one thing is almost guaranteed - schools will claim to instruct students in a biblical worldview.
And this is key.
Many parents who send their children to a Christian school, do so for the very purpose of training their children to view all of life through the lens of Scripture.
Some schools do this well and others do not.
The question is, “How can I tell the difference?”
To answer that we’ll explore 2 topics:
- Worldview Thinking or Bible Verses Thrown in the Mix?
- Student Evaluating or Teacher Preaching?
1. Worldview Thinking or Bible Verses Thrown in the Mix?
When schools say they instruct students in a biblical worldview, they are claiming to help students see, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
However, frequently, what ends up happening in Christian schools is a teacher, or curriculum, will simply throw a Bible verse in the mix and call it biblical worldview instruction.
Real-World Classroom Examples
For example, when teaching a unit on animals, a science teacher may have her students look up verses in the Bible that reference animals.
One popular Christian math curriculum opens a chapter on the use of the addition operation by quoting Deuteronomy 4:2,
“You shall not add to the word that I commanded you.”
Another popular Christian English curriculum has students diagram sentences such as, “Don’t you wish you could love God like Rev. Jones, Bill?”
There is nothing inherently wrong with these activities. However, such activities simply tack a verse or biblical concept onto the academic content.
They fail to help students see how scientific, mathematical, and grammatical knowledge flow from the biblical worldview.
The Rise of Robust Christian School Curriculums and Training
Recently, more Christian schools have realized that throwing in a Bible verse or Christian virtue here and there is not equipping students with a distinctly biblical worldview.
New curriculums have been developed to equip students to evaluate worldview claims in all subjects.
2. Student Evaluating or Teacher Preaching?
Once Christian schools have ensured that teachers and curriculums are not merely pasting a Bible verse or Christian virtue into a lesson, the next question that needs to be asked is, “Who is doing the thinking?”
All too often, Christian teachers and administrators simply tell students what the Christian worldview teaches, rather than having students do the critical thinking.
The result is teachers think that students are learning and internalizing a biblical worldview, while students haven’t ever critically thought through the Christian worldview and therefore, have not made it their own.
It is vital, then, that biblical worldview instruction in the classroom involves students thinking and evaluating.
This can be a difficult paradigm shift for educators whose only experience with biblical content has been in the context of Sunday preaching.
However, training programs from organizations such as Transformed PD can successfully coach teachers and administrators through this shift.
Supplemental resources such as comparative worldview curriculums can equip both teachers and students to carefully evaluate every idea presented in the classroom.
As parents, teachers, and administrators explore Christian education options, many will explore the types of curriculums a particular Christian school implements.
Whether it’s a Christian school curriculum or secular curriculum, the most important outcome to consider is if teachers are instructing students in a biblical worldview and fostering worldview thinking.
About Elizabeth Urbanowicz
Elizabeth Urbanowicz is a follower of Jesus who is passionate about equipping kids to understand the truth of the Christian worldview. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Gordon College, an M.S.Ed. in Education from Northern Illinois University, and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Elizabeth spent the first decade of her professional career teaching elementary students at a Christian school. Elizabeth now works full time on developing comparative worldview and apologetics resources for children. Her goal is to prepare the next generation to be lifelong critical thinkers and, most importantly, lifelong disciples of Jesus.
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