I have five children ranging in ages from 29 to 12 years old at the time of this writing. All of my children were home schooled from preschool through graduation. From the beginning, I hoped to teach my children to teach themselves. I didn’t want to succumb to the unrealistic pressure of teaching my children EVERYTHING that they might ever need to know. Instead, I wanted to give them the basic tools that they would need in order to LEARN anything they might need to know. I wanted them to see the world through God’s eyes and to discover the wonder that He created all around them. I wanted them to have a curiosity and a desire to understand people and nature.
With these goals, each year I would make a list of things that I wanted my children to master. For example, learn to tell time to the hour OR learn to tie their shoe laces OR learn to identify the difference between butterflies and moths. I would list these Mastery Skills by “subjects,” like MATH, LANGUAGE ARTS, SCIENCE and HISTORY. I would then make a plan of ways that I could give them opportunities to master these skills. If I had a goal for my child to write a simple sentence, I would give them opportunities to write stories of their discoveries that they made when we placed various objects near magnets. I tried to take care not to let my goals cause pressure on my children for which they weren’t ready, but I recognized that some amount of pressure and discomfort is occasionally important for real learning to occur. I used many resources and lots of prayer when creating these lists. After a few years, I had a quiet confidence in my teaching that made the lists a little less important. Instead, I could focus on evaluating whether my children were growing at a steady pace in important areas like understanding God and His Creation OR feeling more comfortable working with the math skills that they had attained OR reading more books without being prompted OR researching topics of their own design.
Along the way, we captured tadpoles and watched them turn into frogs. We housed crickets in environments that allowed them to breed and we watched the tiny cricket nymphs slowly develop into full-grown crickets. We raised rats and tracked their genetics through generations. We planted seeds and we built flashlights. We explored mathematical functions and made numerical discoveries. We poured over logic puzzles and riddles and poetry. We studied history in light of God’s Word. We learned spelling and grammar through writing letters and papers.
Over time, I fell into a pattern of teaching in our home school. Eventually, history became the backbone of our studies. I spent a year teaching the seven days of God’s Creation of the world. On the first day, we examined the impact of God creating light and much of the scientific and mathematical foundation that this small part of creation entailed. Throughout the year, we explored as much as we could about all of the amazing things that God simply SPOKE into existence. By the time that God rested, we had barely scratched the surface of all of the things that we could have studied, but I made myself move on to the self-imposed deadlines so that we could begin the study of Adam and Eve and their lineage.
Following our year of studying Creation, we studied Adam through Noah. We read of Adam and Even walking with God and of their sad rebellion against God. We read God’s description of the lush tropical environment that had no seasons, no rain and no storms. We read about the first murder and about the growing populations as men and women filled the earth. We read of the brilliant pre-flood men that managed farms and cattle, created musical instruments, and forged tools of brass and iron. We learned that Noah was born a few short years after the death of Seth, which meant that Noah likely had the opportunity to know men that knew Seth! This gave us an understanding of how information could have been accurately passed down from generation to generation of believers. Learning about the weather patterns of the pre-flood world helped us to understand why many people would likely have dismissed Noah as “the crazy man that’s been building a boat for decades.” Hundreds and hundreds of years and thousands, if not millions, of people after Creation, Noah walked with God amidst a culture that ridiculed him for it. We also saw that God told Noah to enter the ark and GOD sealed the door, but it didn’t rain until seven days later. Could this be because Methusaleh had just died and God was allowing Noah those 7 days of mourning before He sent the huge cataclysmic flood that ripped open the heavens and sent rain pouring from above? At the same time, the earth exploded as the fountains of the great deep broke open with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as a massive amount of water was sent spewing from below the crust of the earth for 40 days! This was no local flood. This shook the entire world. And it’s never happened again! When the ark settled, likely near the top of a mountain side since it was 2.5 months later before the tops of the mountains were seen again, Noah and his family, along with all of the animals that God had called into the ark, were carried safely through the storm!
We walked through HIStory as we learned about how Noah and his family left the ark and began to set up camps nearby. We saw sin quickly corrupt men so that, as a result, God confused the languages and all of the people of the world spread out by language groups. We began reading secular historians and evaluating what they said against the Truth that we read in Scripture. We read as secular historians also pointed out that the population of the earth descended from this same region and were all related to one man. We discovered the fact that Noah was still alive when Abraham was born! We saw God’s Truth shine through as men tried to deny Him. We read about the pagan culture of Egypt and how God’s people encountered these Egyptians again and again, throughout the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Solomon. We studied archaeologists and their discoveries. We read as these archaeologists and historians ridiculed the Biblical teachings of the existence of biblical cities, only to see the later discovery of many of these cities make the incorrect historians look ridiculous instead.
As we read through these civilizations and met the people that lived during these times, we saw God intervening in the lives of ordinary men to spread His story of love and redemption along the way. We constantly asked ourselves, “What is God doing in the lives of these men and in the cultures of this time period?” As we read about these people, we looked at their art and architecture, as well as their advances in math, science and medicine.
After the flood, many technologies would have been lost and man wasn’t living as many years as before. However, that didn’t stop man from starting over and rebuilding their world. Once again, man corrupted much of what God created that was good, but God had a Savior poised and ready. We studied the people groups with whom Jesus would have walked. By the time we were studying Paul while he was speaking to the Romans, we’d already studied the Roman culture and many of its people.
As we studied these historical time periods, we wrote papers while learning grammar and spelling. We learned to research and to draw sound conclusions. We learned reason and logic. We learned life skills like creating gardens and sewing. We wrapped most areas of study around our history, fully immersing ourselves in the character of God and His plan for His Creation! We are still in this season of learning and exploring. I don’t expect to ever stop. I’ll keep learning and keep teaching, Lord willing, for all the days of my life! There’s so much Truth to discover!