By guest author Robin Sampson
Telling a homeschooling parent to teach with a Bible focus is easy. Accomplishing that goal? That’s entirely different. It’s remarkably easy to get caught up in the 3Rs (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic).
We want our children to learn in a Christian setting, and we believe that these subjects are what they must learn. But what about the Bible? Isn’t that why we are homeschooling? How important are the 3Rs when establishing a Bible-based education?
If you ask a homeschooler about balancing subjects, many, without realizing it, would look at the situation as assigning weights by periods of time something like the image to the left: Bible on one side with academics on the other.
We begin mentally scheduling how much time should be spent in each “subject.” Using this analogy, how much weight should the 3Rs get? How much weight should the Bible get? Who decided on the time period of one-hour subjects? And who decided that all children learn in the same way with the same exposure? If the Bible is a one-hour study time, should 3Rs be three more hours? Would it be the same for a four-year-old and a 17-year-old?
The problem with this mentality is we usually think about the state’s requirements concerning education instead of God’s requirements. We are putting the wrong items on the scale! It should NOT be Bible on one side and the 3Rs on the other. They are not in competition with each other. The 3Rs are the tools to help you reach the goal.
God’s will should be on one side and everything we can get our hands on to prepare our children should balance the scales. How do we change this mentality of balancing Bible with academics? How do we renew our mind? We need to ask God to lead us. We must stay in prayer and have faith that the God who created the universe, who knows the number of hairs on our head, will show us what we need to train our children for Him.
Taking a look at the world around us, it doesn’t take long to decide that the 3Rs are necessary. Language arts and math skills are basic fundamentals that everyone needs in order to live and work in America today. Children from preschool to grade three should focus primarily on these skills. In fact, this gives them a solid foundation from which they can learn higher-level concepts.
In all stages of education, the 3Rs are critical tools — like a compass — for life’s journey. How important, then, is the map that shows you where to go? Or the light that shines the way? After all, what good is a compass when you don’t know whether to go east or west? And how would you use a compass for a journey in the dark? God’s Word is the map to guide us on our journey and the light to show us the way. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105).
In a collection of 66 books we call the Bible, our God of the universe gave us instructions on how to live our lives. This is the context within which all other learning must happen; it shines light on the world around us and teaches us how to use skills like the 3Rs to sharpen our focus on the ultimate goal of a life in Christ. As Christians, we know how fundamental the Bible is to daily living and to daily learning.
How often, however, do we get so tied up in academics that Bible study – God’s instruction for how to live life – gets pushed to the side because Mom’s so worried about fractions! Or Bible becomes a quick 15 minutes in a workbook? We have to become conscious that forgetting the map or the light makes the trip futile! HAVE FAITH!
Five years after establishing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Puritans started in Boston the first elementary school supported by tax money. In 1647, they passed an ordinance which marked the beginning of the US Public School system.
Among other things, the ordinance required at least one qualified teacher for every 50 householders and a grammar school in every town of more than 100 families. It also put the Bible in the center of its curriculum, asserting that it is “one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures.”
Taking the Time
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Is. 28:9-10).
Homeschoolers are not teaching a class of 30 students that need to get to another class in 45 minutes. If you simply spend time in prayer asking God to show you what to teach when, He will show you. Lean on Him!
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding”
“A little here, a little there” was a method used in teaching the Hebrew children, inculcating a little at a time. Doing the same during school time ensures that your children will understand that the Bible is not something meant just for church, but for daily living as well. Remember, as you teach, that all things stem from God.
Pulling His Word into the basic concepts of the 3Rs then becomes much easier. This does not mean that Bible reading should only be interspersed within the other school subjects. As we just determined, the Bible is the basis of all education, and we can’t afford to ignore it. This means devoting time specifically to Bible study every day. “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Prov. 28:26).
Jesus taught that all the commandments in the Bible can be summarized in two precepts: loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:37-40). These should be our goals. Like a runner whose goal is a marathon, however, we need to train and fuel ourselves for our goal. Studying God’s Word is the food and practice we need to accomplish these two tasks. Living in and through His Word should be our purpose; the 3Rs should be used to help accomplish that purpose — not to supplant it.
Arguing that there’s not enough time is not acceptable. There is time for TV, time for soccer, time for support groups, time for chores, etc. Most books in the Bible are shorter than two or three newspaper columns. These can be easily read in one sitting. The entire Bible can be read nonstop in 63 hours. Over a year, reading the Bible easily can be done in less than 30 minutes per day. Compare that to the four hours of television each day (1460 hours a year) that the average American watches. All of a sudden, a half-hour commitment seems almost trivial, doesn’t it?
Several years ago, I read the Bible story of Jonah to my children. We used an illustrated Bible story book and made whales and tiny paper Jonahs out of envelopes as a follow-up craft. My three-year-old, David, was delighted with this story and has me read it a dozen times. Hardly a day has gone by that he hasn’t talked about Jonah – how Jonah ran away from God because he was being “bad”– then how the whale spit Jonah out when Jonah said he was sorry.
The “angry” people in Nineveh made a big impression on him. He remembered how on one page the people were “angry” and after Jonah’s sermon, on the next page, the people were kind. This one story has come up often in daily training (Deut. 6). We discussed how the people of Nineveh (David says, “Ninahbuh”) could be angry and mean because they didn’t listen to God and how they were nice and kind when they followed God’s ways. It was their choice to have a good day or a bad day. Now, I often use the phrase, “Are you choosing to have a good day or a bad day?” I get an immediate positive response.
Teaching the Bible should be systematic and immediate. As Barbara Richmond stated, “The accepted and effective way to teach biblical truth is to begin with the simplest issues and progress systematically toward the more complex.”
Let’s look at how we teach the 3Rs. You certainly don’t open a novel and expect a four-year-old to start reading. We begin with simple concepts and build systematically. To teach a child to read and write, we begin when he is very small — from the time his chubby hands can grasp a fat crayon. He begins to learn the modality and dexterity needed to write (hopefully on paper, but sometimes on the wall and furniture).
Usually children are taught the alphabet song many months before they are prompted to learn the names and sounds of the letters. Eventually, the children are taught the names of the letters. It’s not hard to teach a child the names of each letter; it can be done with a stick in the sand. But we have many different methods to teach letters: alphabet puzzles, games, cut-outs, letter tracing, computer games, and tactile methods (sand, clay, etc), to name a few.
We begin teaching math to children by teaching them to count simple objects. Next, we teach the names of the numbers and how to write them.When that concept is mastered, we move on to teaching how to compute simple addition and subtraction with different manipulatives.
Teach simple concepts before moving on to complex concepts. To teach a child to appreciate and follow God’s Word, present simple biblical concepts at an early age: Bible stories. Make Bible stories a part of everyday life through recall, storytelling, or reading a children’s Bible. Gradually move into reading the Bible aloud. Eventually, you can read the Bible through in a year — to give the child the whole picture. Word and topical studies are great teaching tools, but first give the child the story.
Use different methods to make the process tangible and enjoyable. Interact: play games, color, and sing. God commanded we have Passover every year to retell the deliverance story (Ex. 13:8). During the story, food items symbolize parts of the story. This type of teaching gets deep into a child’s heart and mind.
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:7).
Originally published on Heart of Wisdom.