by Melanie Ave
In this interview, Doris Knuth, director of the Concordia University Chicago Early Childhood Education Center, explains the many benefits of a Lutheran education, particularly in the lives of the very young. Congregations and Christian day schools within The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) operate more than 2,200 early childhood centers and preschools nationwide, educating more than 128,000 children. The following is an edited Lutheran Witness (LW) interview with Knuth (DK):
LW: How did you end up in early childhood education?
DK: After graduating from Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill., in the early 1970s and spending a few years in the business sector, I was fortunate to find a position as a teacher. Working with children is a learning process, and I found that I enjoyed each day. Sharing those ah-ha moments has always been a highlight as a teacher.
LW: Seven LCMS schools were selected earlier this year to receive the National Lutheran School Accreditations exemplary status recognition out of 90 schools that it accredited or re-accredited in 2010. (The total number of accredited schools is 596.) What was it like when you received the news about your center being one of those recognized?
DK: To be chosen is an honor. We were excited, proud and even humbled. To be able to stand alongside six other incredible institutions has reinforced the understanding that early childhood education is an important part of childrens growth and development.
LW: What is it like teaching children about the Lutheran faith?
DK: As a free standing early childhood center, we have the challenge of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to many families without the assistance and support of a home congregation. Research has shown that children learn by utilizing their senses and having an active part in the learning process. Making experiences real and tangible for children is the center of early childhood education. Making our faith in Jesus Christ real and tangible is the beginning of understanding what it means to be a Christian. It comes from knowing that all of us are loved and are able to love in return. We help children understand that, as children of God, we are given the ability to share Christs love and forgiveness with others. Including prayers, stories and songs throughout the day enforces our understanding of the depth of Gods love for us, a love so deep that He would send His only son to die for our salvation.
LW: Why do you think its important to help children not only to develop socially, emotionally and physically but also spiritually?
DK: Helping children develop socially and spiritually lays the groundwork for all other content areas. Learning about Gods love and forgiveness as a gift to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, at all times enables children to share this gift with others. Developing a sense of empathy, respect and friendship are encouraged through the Word of God.
About the Author: Melanie Ave is the Public Relations Coordinator for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.