Putting the Bible First
- Monday, February 27, 2006
"How old are your kids?" asked Cordelle, a woman I had met at church and now bumped into at our local homeschool support group. She had three well-behaved, respectful, academically-advanced children a few years older than my two oldest.
"Six and seven," I replied. Her face lit up.
"Oh! You’re just starting! Just remember, for the first few years, you do Bible. Don’t worry about anything else, just Bible, Bible, Bible!" she exclaimed, punctuating her words by slapping the back of one hand into the palm of the other.
I smiled, thanked her and moved on, wondering what on earth she meant. My children were highly intelligent; I was going to take advantage of that and get them ahead of their grade level. They would be poster-children for homeschooling, reading Shakespeare by third grade and dabbling in Algebra by fourth.
A week later, as I watched my poster-children squabbling over a pencil, her words came back to me. Maybe there was something to it, I thought. What I was doing certainly wasn’t working. Most days, when my students weren’t fighting with each other, they were disappearing every time I turned my back or arguing with me about whether or not we were actually going to do school that day. What was my goal anyway? Was it worth this uphill battle just so I could boast that my children were ahead a grade in their schoolwork?
I thought back to my own school career: I had skipped a grade in early elementary school. Rather than making me a more successful adult by getting me out of school a year early, it had contributed to my feelings of not fitting in, of not understanding social rules that my peers, who were developmentally ahead of me by a year, seemed to "get" without thinking about.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the honors classes I took in high school did less for my success as a young adult than the Christian clubs I attended. What I learned about real life and how to cope with it, I learned directly from studying the Bible, from discussions with the leaders of the groups, or I picked up from the other kids in the group. When I was in my early twenties, my middle-aged co-workers sometimes asked me for advice, but it wasn’t advice on writing the perfect five-paragraph essay that they were seeking. It was Biblical wisdom; I had an edge on understanding how people ticked and how life worked that didn’t stem from the A I earned in Psychology 101.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to equip my children with an understanding of why it mattered before I pushed them into studying great literature? Wouldn’t history make more sense with a point of reference to tie it all together, seeing God’s hand in history rather than just learning a list of facts? On a practical level, it occurred to me that if I gave Bible memorization and character-training the highest priority in our homeschooling, it would make teaching the academics easier. I had the Holy Spirit on my side; maybe it was time to invite Him into what I was doing instead of thinking I had to do it on my own. I decided to give Cordelle’s idea a try.
The first thing I did was to change our school day. Instead of pulling out the math books first, we sat on the couch and I read aloud from the Bible. My children complained at first that they were sick of Bible stories, having attended Sunday School their whole lives, which was why I chose the Bible itself over a book of Bible stories.
Every day we read a section of the Gospel of John (usually less than one chapter), and then we talked about it. Some days we would get into deep theological discussions, and some days my children would come up with surprising applications from their own lives. My visually-oriented child insisted on sitting next to me, following along, while my kinesthetic jumping bean of a child needed to lie on the floor and draw as I read. Some days it took less than half an hour to read the passage and talk about it, and then we were on to academics; other days inspiration would hit and we would jump up and act out a scene or a parable, or draw pictures about what we’d read, or speak at length about what-if situations or real-life situations, hammering out what our responses should be.
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