Parents must 'upgrade' children's education, author writes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Whether a child is homeschooled or attends a private or public school, author Kevin Swanson wants to lead parents to "Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child."

"Swanson's views on education are refreshingly parent-centered," Jeffrey T. Riddle, pastor of Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., says of the new book by the executive director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado.

Swanson also is the father of five children and an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor. His book is a Broadman & Holman release from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"He encourages Christian parents not to abandon their biblical responsibility for the education of their children," Riddle notes. "This burden cannot be passed on to the state or even to the church, but it is to be shouldered by godly parents. Christian parents will profit from a thoughtful reading of Upgrade."

Swanson broadly defines education as "the preparation of a child intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically for life and for eternity." Thus, a successful education is measured not solely academically but is achieved "when a child is prepared to make maximal use of his God-given talents and abilities in the accomplishment of the child's calling," Swanson writes.

The 10 principles in Upgrade underscore, for example, the preeminence of character; the value of mastering the basics; one-on-one instruction, sequential progression and life applications; and a child's individuality and need for relationships.

Riddle notes that homeschooling parents in particular "will be encouraged by reading and considering Swanson's 10 suggestions. One of the themes woven throughout these suggestions is that parents should not overly obsess about achieving academic standards in the mode of conventional classroom education. In secret six [the principle of doing the basics well], for example, Swanson suggests that teaching children the fundamental basics of reading and writing will go a long way in preparing them for life -- again, the real goal of education."

Swanson sees character as the foundational principle that parents strive to achieve in their children's education.

"If education were a house, character would be the concrete foundation, the structure, the studs, and the drywall," Swanson writes. Intelligence alone, he points out, does not produce a good person.

Concerning one-on-one instruction, Swanson writes that teachers with more than 20 students rarely can give more than six to seven minutes of individual time to each student. Parents can make a huge difference in their children's education by helping with whatever they're learning, Swanson writes, even if just sitting beside them while they do their homework.

Addressing the principle of individuality, Swanson reminds that different subjects come more quickly for different kids. The key is not to assume that a child who is slow in math now will be slow in math five years from now, he writes.

Learning style also is a key factor. While asking whether a child learns better by hearing something clearly or by seeing a visual depiction, he writes that most students "eventually learn to accommodate" the various methods of comprehension.

Comparisons are difficult to avoid when one sibling excels in math or reading while another struggles, Swanson acknowledges. Schools measure how students compare to others their age -- standardizations he sees as often being a hindrance instead of a help.

"The grade level on the spine of the [textbook] shouts out what every child is expected to achieve," Swanson writes. But a one-size-fits-all approach often leaves half of the class "intimidated" and the other half "bored." The end result, he writes, can be a "disastrous consequence of square pegs (or triangular pegs) jammed into round holes."

Upgrade closes with Swanson's call for parents to construct a vision for what they want in their children's education and to write down five to 10 goals setting forth bite-size steps and accomplishments.

Simply getting children to graduate from high school isn't enough. "We're not looking for mere survival for our children," Swanson writes.

"Attempting to educate and train children without a purpose, without a vision and without an understanding of the principles that govern that process is a sure way to fail," he notes. "Success will come when we are headed in the right direction, and we take one step at a time in that direction....

"If our mission is right, we can move ahead with faith and confidence, counting on the blessing of God," Swanson writes.


Adapted from reporting by Sara Horn and a book review by Jeffrey T. Riddle, pastor of Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., at "Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child" by Kevin Swanson is available at LifeWay Christian Stores and online at


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