Psalm One Learning – Part 3

In our last article, we began to develop the "learning tree" concept. We shared that our children need to be grounded in the Word of God as they begin to develop firm and deep roots as they learn. This "root" development or elementary learning stage might also be called the knowledge level.

Academically students are learning to comprehend facts, figures, and data. It is vain at this stage of the child's development to attempt to teach the child to think abstractly – elementary age students think concretely, so maximize this time to teach skills and basic knowledge. This is the time for arithmetic, not algebra; the time for history, not philosophy. Give children a thorough grounding in the facts of science, history, arithmetic, music, art, language, and Scripture. It will be time well spent.

Spiritually, students are learning facts about God, the Bible, and creation. There is not a lot of questioning about the logic behind the truths; children simply suck up knowledge about God from the world around them and from their family interactions. This is the time when children naturally accept what parents teach as being the truth. During this time children should be saturated with truths of Scripture, stories of great bible heroes, missionary stories, Christian heroes of American history, etc. Children will believe what they are told, so be sure not to confuse them by exposing them to false ideas (such as evolution, or false religions).

It is worthwhile to note that the roots are grown completely underground, protected from the harshness of the world. This is the time when sheltering your children is the right thing to do. It is a wise idea, not allowing them to be exposed to confusing messages about God, life, and family. Since children at this stage have not yet developed critical thinking skills, if they encounter contradictory information on any topic, they are likely to be quite frustrated and confused.  This is the time to be bold in your explanation and defense of truth. Make no apologies for your beliefs, and work hard to live consistently with your faith so that your elementary onlookers will learn confidence in you and in the truths of God's Word. Minimizing TV time is certainly wise during these years. Their inability to discern the vast errors coming through the media is certainly something to be consciously guarding against.

You will know when it is time for your student to move on to the next level of learning—when he or she has mastered the 4 r's. How will you know? That's not a simple, straightforward answer. You, as the parents or teacher, determine whether you believe your child, your student, has succeeded in gaining the basics of elementary knowledge. If the skills aren't mastered, you work with the student until they are. Mastery of skills can be determined fairly objectively—if the child can read, do basic math, etc.—you know it.

Be careful, though, not to confuse this process with mastery of information—a task we believe to be impossible to achieve. (Yet many people erroneously think it is the end goal.) After all, one can study nearly any subject for many years and still not have internalized all the information within it. In the spiral system, we attempt to test for whether information is mastered—for instance, the student is graded for knowing or not knowing the answers for the history test. However, if students were given the same history test a month later without warning would they still know the same information? That is doubtful. Thus, mastery of information is an illusive challenge—and it is actually quite unnecessary if one has mastered the four root skills.

Next time, we will move on to teaching our children to understand and discern in a process that we analogize as the trunk of the Learning Tree.

This topic and much more is covered in David and Laurie Callihan's recently completed, brand new, downloadable Parent's Guide to the Christian Homeschool Daily Planner (with their Grand Plan built right in) and also in The Guidance Manual for the Christian Homeschool: A Parent's Guide for Preparing Homeschool Students for College or Career.  Learn more at http://www.davidandlaurie.com. They are regular columnists on Crosswalk's High School and general Homeschool pages.