Sunday, September 12, 2010

What is biblical homeschooling? Part 6- Teaching the Arts

Disclaimer:  I do not have an artistic bone in my body, therefore, art has always been a low priority for me.  My search through the Scriptures to discover biblical homeschooling has convinced me, however, that art is important to God, so it should not be neglected.  I suppose we could ask ourselves why art matters to God and we could probably come up with many answers such as God is creative, He is orderly, art is aesthetically pleasing, etc.  But, the one reason I see plainly given in Scripture for art is that it can be used in worship to give God glory.  I bet you never saw that coming : ). 

God gave Moses very specific instructions for the building of the tabernacle.  He said this of Bezalel, an artisan chosen to work on the tabernacle.

"See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship."  Exodus 31:2-5

God didn't stop there with one gifted craftsman.  It was also God's design that Bezalel teach his craft to others.

"And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.  He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linene, and of hte weaver- those who do every work and those who design artistic works."  Exodus 35:34-35

God had a plan for what He wanted His holy tent to look like.  He desired beauty and order and man couldn't accomplish His plan unless God gave him the skills necessary.  So God gave the artistic skill and He gave the desire and ability to pass on the artistic skill to others, so that collectively they could build the tabernacle in such a way as to most brilliantly reflect the glory of God.

I mentioned that I'm not artistic, at all.  That's not to say I don't admire art.  I'm blessed to have visited many of the most famous art museums in the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery in Washington, D.C. as well as the one in London, The Tate Gallery also in London, The J. Paul Getty Museum in L.A., the Louvre in Paris, etc.  I think the Dutch Masters impress me the most.  Sometimes when staring at one of their works the thought strikes me that the artist must have been touched by God.  Surely artistic ability of that caliber is a gift from God and it's meant to be used for His glory.

Music falls into this category, as well.  God desires our hearts in worship, but He also wants our music to sound good.

"Chenaniah, leader of the Levites, was instructor in charge of the music, because He was skillful;"  1 Chronicles 15:22

"So the number of them, with their brethern who were instructed in the songs of the Lord, all who were skillful, was two hundered and eighty-eight."  1 Chronicles 25:7

Again, we see skill in the arts, this time music, being used in the worship of the Lord to the praise of His glory.  Lest those of us lacking skill in music have our feelings hurt, let's consider for a moment the degree to which skill contributes to worship.  I think it's simply that a choir full of Celee's would not very adequately reflect God's glory and magnificence. 

This reminds me of the spiritual gifts to be used in the body of Christ that are described in the New Testament.

"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them..."  Romans 12:4-6a

Just as a general principle, any special ability we possess should be used for the edification of the church, which is the body of Christ.  I think musical and artistic ability are no exception.  Surely the Lord has gifted me in some capacity, and whatever He has given me the ability to do, I am responsible to use for His glory.

So, why include teaching the arts in biblical homeschooling?

1.  We can't tell initially whether one of our children may be gifted by God in the arts.  As parents, it's our job to discover what our children are good at, and if they do seem to have some ability in music or art, then we need to help them develop that gift so that they can use their skill to give glory to God.

2. For those not particularly gifted in music or the arts, in other words for the rest of us, studying the arts reveals, I think, a little bit more of who God is.  This glimpse into God's creative genius causes us to praise Him more.  So, our appreciation of the special artistic skill He's given to others gives glory to God.

3.  God went to great lengths to describe what He wanted the tabernacle and then the Temple to look like.  He also instructed the Levites about music and dedicated a large contingency of priests to be in charge of the music associated with worship.  I guess the bottom line is, if art and music are important to God, they should be important to us, too.

How do we apply this in a practical way?  Most families with many kids can't afford private lessons in art and music.  I think we can all start by teaching our children a love and appreciation for the arts.  The kids and I studied Sonlight Core 6 last year and I was amazed at how much we learned about art.  I'm even learning about art from my preschooler's Five in a Row curriculum!  So start with choosing a homeschool curriculum that places an emphasis on art, like Sonlight, FIAR, or another Charlotte Mason-friendly curriculum.  Or simply supplement your curriculum with books on art.  And anyone can purchase a few classical CDs to introduce his children to the world of music. 

I think what we have to keep in mind is that our desire is NOT to turn out little artists who study at Julliard and go on to live a Bohemian lifestyle in NYC or Europe trying to eke out a living in the arts.   Our goal as Christian homeschooling parents is to give our children a greater picture of who God is through the appreciation of fine arts.  Our goal is for their knowledge and experience in the arts to result in greater praise to God.  Our ultimate goal is God's glory, whether our children end up using their musical or artistic skills to worship the Lord, or whether our children praise God in their hearts as a result of someone else's artistic ability who has been touched by God.  Either way, the arts should garner a place in biblical homeschooling.

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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.