Kevin Swanson, Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006): 211 pp.
Kevin Swanson is a husband and the father of five children, the Pastor of Reformation Church (an Orthodox Presbyterian Church congregation) in Castle Rock, Colorado, the Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado, a past candidate for governor of the state of Colorado, and the host of the "Generations" radio/internet program (see www.kevinswanson.com). Swanson is also the author of Upgrade, a 2006 release from Lifeway’s Broadman & Holman publishers in which he shares his passion for parent-driven Christian education.
The author begins by acknowledging "the growing dissatisfaction with the condition of education in many industrialized countries today" (1). He writes as a passionate advocate for homeschooling as the best alternative for Christian families fleeing failing public schools. Indeed, Swanson is among the first generation of home-schoolers. His parents educated him at home while serving as missionaries in Japan. Swanson boldly calls for Christian parents to take on the God-given responsibility of overseeing the education of their children. Upgrade demonstrates a newfound interest by Southern Baptists in addressing homeschooling issues and audiences.
The author broadly defines education as "the preparation of a child intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically for life and for eternity" (10). A successful education, therefore, is not just measured in academic achievement but in how well a child is prepared for his life and calling: "A successful education is when a child is prepared to make maximal use of his God-given talents and abilities in the accomplishment of the child’s calling" (17).
The heart of Upgrade is the presentation of ten "time tested secrets for a successful education." These include:
1. The preeminence of character.
2. Quality one-on-one instruction.
3. The principle of protection.
4. The principle of individuality.
5. The rooting in relationships.
6. The principle of doing basics well.
7. The principle of life integration.
8. Maintaining the honor and mystique of learning.
9. Build on the right foundation.
10. The principle of wise, sequential progression.
Homeschooling parents, in particular, will be encouraged by reading and considering Swanson’s ten 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). He also gives strong emphasis to the principle of life-integration. Swanson shares autobiographically, for example, about his own decision to take personal direction of the education of his thirteen year old son by including his son in his day to day work activities (see especially pp. 133-35).
The book closes with Swanson’s call for parents to construct a vision for their family and to nurture their children toward attainment of the goals outlines in that vision. Swanson’s views on education are refreshingly parent-centered. He encourages Christian parents not to abandon their Biblical responsibility for the education of their children. 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.
Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor, Jefferson Park Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903