Written by: Graham Yoko
Article source: JOY! Magazine

Christians must seek God with regard to understanding the good way of education. The biblical way is teaching children to love the Lord with heart, soul, and might. The whole child is to be educated (Deut 6:4-9) and demands spiritual, intellectual, and physical education. So often, preschool programmes focus on cognitive, physical, and social development, overlooking the spiritual dimension of children’s development.

Children grow up in a diverse, complex, and often challenging world. With this in mind, researchers have begun to increasingly promote preschool curricula that embrace a whole-child approach that not only nurtures the mind, but also the heart and spirit.

So, what are the critical components of a whole-child curriculum?
Early childhood is a time when children are naturally curious and eager to explore their environment. It is a short period of profound significance where the foundation for a child’s physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual development is established.

The core of the programme
Identity and purpose, according to God’s plan, should be at the core of a programme that also builds foundational skills such as language, literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving. Carefully selected activities and play-to-learn opportunities, combined with biblical principles and Christian role models, will effectively maximise early learning opportunities. Neuroscience shows us that the brain is extremely adaptive during this phase. Neural connections form at an extraordinary rate and provide the basis for future learning, behaviour, and cognitive abilities. Ongoing studies have consistently shown that experiences during the early years of a child’s life have lasting effects on an individual’s physical and mental health, educational attainment, employment prospects, and overall well-being.

An authentic Christian programme
A standard preschool curriculum focuses on early academic achievements, physical milestones, and social behaviours. An authentic Christian programme intentionally ensures that spiritual growth is equally important and recognises that young children think of God in a personal way. They understand that God is their Creator. They can sense God’s greatness when they discover and comprehend the wonderful way that God made and sustains everything.

Discovering potential
A Christian programme encourages them to discover the amazing potential that each of them has for a fulfilled productive life if they base their decisions and actions upon a commitment to Jesus Christ and His way of doing things. They are often puzzled, asking big questions that should be brought into the learning environment. Is God more powerful than the whale in the ocean? Can animals also feel emotions? Who am I? They are also impacted by the wonderful nature of God as they learn about creation and the incredible way the world works, which is the basis of a later understanding of science and the intricate detail of creation.

A Christian environment
In a Christian environment, children not only associate God with things that are good, true, and beautiful, but also learn to trust Him through seeing family, teachers, and friends praying, having empathy towards others, and living in faith.

The Joy! programme
Early childhood learning programmes that are immersed in the Word of God do exist, are accessible, and can be efficiently implemented. One such programme is Joy! – a programme that has been designed to provide the 21st-century child with opportunities to learn, explore, form and test ideas, be creative, solve problems, and become confident, unique, purpose-filled young learners with character and integrity. The programme is aligned with the National Curriculum Framework for children birth to four years (NCF) and integrates all six early learning and development areas (ELDAs). It is a 36-week themed programme that provides schools with all the necessary materials and teacher instructions. Joy! facilitates a fun environment where practical hands-on opportunities are the main tools of instruction, encouraging young learners to use their senses through play, exploration, and discovery.

The heart of the Joy! programme
At the heart of the programme are the character traits of Jesus, helping each child steadily gain insight and understanding of their Creator and the amazing world He has created for them to enjoy and take care of, and how to make age-appropriate choices that will allow them to fulfil His plans and purposes for their lives.

Understanding how the world works
Understanding how the world works as God intended it to, children begin to grasp the idea that they have the responsibility to take care of it all. This fills them with a sense of hope and purpose, knowing how important they are in God’s plans and purposes as they journey into the future.

Rescuing an entire generation
In a country where education is profoundly challenged and quality ECD programmes are not reaching the majority, we must intentionally work to rescue entire generations at risk of the long-lasting negative implications of a deprived early childhood learning experience. Christians need to turn the tide on illiteracy, stunted development, and hopelessness through education as God intended. Churches can be part of the solution by establishing wonderful early learning centres on their properties and provide the incredible gift on Christian education in these critical formative years.

For more information
If you would like to find out more about establishing an early learning centre, the Joy! programme, or anything about authentic Christian education, please contact Accelerated Education Enterprises on 087 820 4858 or visit aeegroup.co.za

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Date published: 10/11/2023
Feature image: Image for illustrative purposes only. Artwork from www.rawpixel.com

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