THE education of children does not begin with nursery school, kindergarten, or first grade. Stressing the significance of early development and direction, a recent article comments, ``...the mind of the child, in the very first years, even months, of life, is the crucible in which many of his deepest values are formed.''1 Teaching babies to recognize people and objects, to form their first words, to take their first steps, to feed and dress themselves, requires deliberate education. But whoever ``mothers'' a child educates that child just as certainly by example as by direct effort.
The children in our care observe us; we teach them by our thoughts and conduct as well as by our words. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, and herself a parent and a teacher, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``A mother is the strongest educator, either for or against crime. Her thoughts form the embryo of another mortal mind, and unconsciously mould it, either after a model odious to herself or through divine influence, `according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.'''2
The Bible verse quoted here by Mrs. Eddy refers to the experience of the lawgiver, Moses, but we have also a New Testament example that is fundamental to our own and our children's education. Surely the best model for parents to follow in molding the character of their children is Christ Jesus, who exemplified true manhood in both his teaching and his healing ministry. If parents would be better educators, they can improve their own responsiveness to the great Teacher. Their own good example can influence their children to pattern their lives after the highest ideal ever given to mankind. Jesus fully demonstrated the wholly spiritual and sinless nature of the man of God's creating, the true selfhood of each of us.
Although the Bible gives little detail in regard to Jesus' education, he must have received religious instruction both outside the home and in it, and he was probably trained in the trade of a carpenter before he began his ministry. The Bible says, ``Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.''3
At an early age, children can be taught to love to learn, or else they may learn to consider learning merely a necessary chore; they can be taught to respect discipline and love to obey, or else they may learn to fear, resist, or ignore direction and authority. What are we teaching them by our own character and conduct? Are we placing self-government on the superior foundation of divine government, which makes discipline and obedience a joy and crown?
The steps of moral and spiritual training should be strengthened by explanation that makes education and self-restraint appealing to the child. Mrs. Eddy writes, ``If you make clear to the child's thought the right motives for action, and cause him to love them, they will lead him aright: if you educate him to love God, good, and obey the Golden Rule, he will love and obey you without your having to resort to corporeal punishment.''4
The parent's role as an educator does not stop when the child enters school. The parent retains supervision over the child's education, and the parent's continuing progress in spiritual rebirth should accompany the child's growth. Parental sharing in and shepherding of children's education at every state of their development is urgent. Science and Health asks, ``Is not the propagation of the human species a greater responsibility, a more solemn charge, than the culture of your garden or the raising of stock to increase your flocks and herds?''5
It is never too soon or too late to exercise your parental role as an educator. Young people who have strayed into drug abuse and sexual promiscuity--even those who have dropped out of school--have been reached and restored through a parent's love and prayers.
Education itself may be going through a crisis, but a renaissance can be effected through prayer, coupled with devout Christian practice. The pattern shown to us in the Sermon on the Mount can be wrought out by all educators, including parents.
1Kathleen McAuliffe, ``Making of a Mind,'' OMNI, October 1985, p. 62. 2Science and Health, p. 236. 3Luke 2:52. 4Miscellaneous Writings, p. 51. 5Science and Health, p. 61. This is a condensed version of an editorial that appears in the February 23 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart froom it. Proverbs 22:6