Saturday, September 11, 2010
What is biblical homeschooling? Part 5- Teaching History
God'sWord is so much more than a history book, but at the very least it is one of the oldest and most accurate historical records available of ancient times. History was important to Israel mainly because it was important to God for His people to remember His many mighty acts on their behalf.
Here are a few of my observations about the recording of and passing down of history in the Bible.
1. It was written.
I know this is obvious, but I think it's important. When my husband was in seminary he took a class in multimedia. I remember at the time thinking how odd that was since the Bible is a book. God could have passed on His Word to us in any number of ways, but He chose to reveal Himself to us in a book. God designed us. He knows how our minds work and how they are best "renewed". I know this is terribly unpopular to say in this day of such heightened awareness of different learning styles, but I believe there is no substitute for the written word. I think we learn something best when we read it, because that's how God has designed us. It's not always easy. It takes practice and concentrated focus, but reading can allow one to fully take-in and process material in a way that just hearing or seeing cannot match. If this is true, then we should be teaching our children history through books. Books are superior to professorial monologues or DVDs.
2. History was also discussed in the home- especially personal testimonies of God's providential care.
"Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, 'Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear my words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.'" Deuteronomy 4:9-10
It makes history personal when we can share family testimonies with our children. For instance, my father has a picture of one of his ancestors who fought in the Civil War and a letter that he wrote home to his mother while away during the war. It's so touching to read his words because he was a man of honor who loved the Lord. My dad fought in Vietnam and my Grandpa fought in the Korean war. I have some Cherokee indian blood in me, and the list goes on and on. Personalizing history for our children will make it infinitely more interesting to them and if we can also show how God worked in our family through the given situation, that's even better.
3. History was also recorded and remembered in songs.
I don't know about you, but there seems to be something powerful about music when it comes to memorization. Have you ever heard Jewish boys practicing for their Bar Mitzvah's? They sing the Scriptures, or chant them anyway. I think there's something to this. We've been listening to Scripture on several CDs- Psalms set to contemporary music by Jamie Soles and Sing the Word recordings of different passages by the Harrow family. I'm amazed at how much more quickly we seem to learn the Scriptures when they're set to music. A few examples of historical songs follow.
"Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel." Deuteronomy 31:19
Song of Moses in Exodus 15 which memorializes God's rescuing His people from bondage in Egypt.
Song of Deborah in Judges 5 as a tribute to God for their victory over the Canaanites.
Prelude to Psalm 60 (To the Chief Musician. Set to "Lily of the Testimony." A Michtam of David. For teaching. When he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria and Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.)
4. History was also memorialized using landmarks like the memorial stones erected when Israel crossed into the Promised Land.
"... that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?' Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever." Joshua 4:6-7
5. The feasts and holy days provided extended opportunities for reflection on Israel's history and also taught history through rich symbolism. (I believe teaching history was a secondary purpose of the feasts. The primary purpose of the feasts and holy days was to worship God.)
For instance, celebrating Passover each year served as a reminder of how God delivered Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Eating bread without yeast would reinforce to Hebrew children that their ancestors had to be ready to leave Egypt quickly, with no time for bread to rise. (It also served as a reminder of the seriousness of sin.) The Passover lamb that was eaten would point to that first Passover lamb whose blood was spread on the doorpost to save their firstborn from death. (And to the future Messiah who would be the perfect sacrifice, securing life for all who would trust in Him.)
History was important to Israel and it should be important to us. I think we can draw several principles of teaching history biblically from the examples above.
1. The two-fold purpose of teaching history in the Bible is to magnify God's great and mighty acts on behalf of His people and to remind man of his utter dependence on God's grace and mercy. We should keep these learning objectives in mind as we teach our children history. They're two opposite sides of the same coin. Man's weakness and God's greatness. Man's sin and God's holiness. Man's rebellion and God's judgement. Man's repentance and God's forgiveness. Are these not the stories played out time and again throughout the ages?
2. Memorializing God's great works gives Him glory and giving God glory should be our highest goal in studying history. We should always endeavor to point out to our children how God was at work in each particular event studied in history. Sometimes this is more obvious than other times, but with the benefit of hindsight it is usually possible to see how God worked a particular situation, even a terrible one, for the good of His plan or His people. The providence of God is most manifest when studying history. History truly is His story. There is no such thing as secular history. We want our kids to come away from studying history praising God. If we fail to magnify the Lord in our history lessons then we're not teaching history the way it was taught in the Bible.
3. Important doesn't equal boring. History was fun to learn- not monotonous. Do you remember having to memorize a bunch of dates for your history exams? I would cram them all into my head just long enough to ace my exam and then promptly forget each and every date. I love how history in the Bible focuses on what's most important- what God did and why- rather than on a bunch of meaningless dates. And passing on history may have started with the written word, but it didn't end there. History was reinforced and brought to life through family discussions, personal testimonies, singing of songs, and even through national celebrations.
Wow! It seems I have a lot to learn when it comes to teaching history!
I have one final note that I want to mention before moving on. When it is said that the Canaanites "taught" Israel their abominations, some might argue this means that we should not teach our children about false religions. I believe in the context it's obvious that the Israelites witnessed these abominations firsthand, gradually became desensitized to them, and then eventually approved of them and even began practicing them. This was not book learning. This was co-mingling, inter-marrying, up close and personal modelling of idolatry that was adopted by Israel. I believe teaching our kids about false religions in no way sets them up for "learning" these practices. I think a good analogy is teaching our kids about alcohol. There's learning about the damaging effects of too much alcohol from your parents who want to protect you and then there's "learning" about drinking from your neighbor's older brother who shows you how "cool" it is and then gives you your first beer. See the difference? As long as we are always seeking to give God glory through our study of history, we can't go wrong.
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.