This year tens of thousands of homeschoolers will begin taking college classes. Introductory psychology is one of the first classes that many students take. Psychology class is interesting and it is good that that students study the wonders of the human mind – after all, it is God’s grandest creation. But at the worldview level, psychology class is risky. I have written in these pages that psychology is one of the most worldview-challenging classes homeschoolers will take in college. That is why I believe that every Christian student should take a psychology class before they go to college. We should equip students to recognize and refute the worldview assumptions underlying modern psychology’s theories and schools-of-thought.
But psychology class for middle schoolers? I say, “no.” Psychology class for younger high school students? I say, “not yet.”
Parents sometimes ask, “How old should my child be to take psychology? How do I prepare my middle schooler for Psychology 101? What resources are there to teach psychology to my middle schooler?”
Though I believe that every homeschool student should study psychology, it should be one of the last high school classes they take. Psychology’s content is not difficult, but the worldview battles are real. Psychology professors may ridicule it, but the Christian worldview is the most logical, internally consistent, and meaningful worldview for understanding human psychology. That should be fresh on students’ minds when they start college.
Studying personality, memory, emotions, and the rest of psychology’s content is interesting and attractive to middle schoolers, but it’s not really important. Though I don’t think psychology should be part of the middle school curriculum, that does not mean that we can’t begin to prepare them. We prepare students for psychology by giving them a firm foundation in the meat of the Christian worldview.
What is important is that Christian students become first rate apologists. They should be well-versed in the Christian worldview, with an emphasis on understanding what the Bible says about human nature. They should understand what the Bible says about the human condition, our origin, and our future. We start to prepare Christian students for taking psychology – someday – by introducing them to the study of biblical anthropology (also known as the biblical doctrine of Man).
Biblical anthropology, like psychology, is interested in human nature. Evolution, humanism, and naturalism underlie modern psychology’s view of human psychology. The Bible underlies a Christian view of human psychology. By providing students with a strong foundation in Biblical anthropology, we are, in a sense, teaching them psychology. More importantly, by teaching middle schoolers and young high school students what the Bible says about human nature, we are giving them wisdom and preparing them to think critically about modern psychology’s alternatives. In order for students to recognize and refute modern psychology’s worldviews, they must first understand the Christian worldview. Approaching psychology from a Christian perspective requires, first and foremost, a strong Christian perspective.
Teaching Christian anthropology to middle and young high school students means making them wrestle with important questions.
What does it mean to be fearfully and wonderfully made?
What does it mean to be made from the dust of the earth?
In what ways are we made in the image and likeness of God?
What does it mean to be fallen and what are the effects of Sin?
How are we changed by God’s grace?
We prepare middle and young high school students for psychology by introducing them to the great Christian thinkers and writers. Make your children C. S. Lewis fans. Start in Narnia, but make sure they go further up and further in. Mere Christianity, Till We Have Faces, The Space Trilogy, and others elucidate deep truths about Mankind. Students who are ready to study psychology have read Dostoevsky, Tolkien, Chesterton, MacDonald, and Eliot. Students who are ready to study psychology understand the principles of Christian living and practice living with maturity.
There is a good chance that a student starting middle school this year will major in psychology. Many are starting to think about careers in social work or as Christian counselors. But rather than getting a head start, students should take it slow and build a firm foundation first.
Originally Published in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine