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Learning History from a Biblical Perspective

Recently, I gave a workshop on the topic of teaching and learning history from a Biblical worldview at an online Charlotte Mason conference. [You can still sign up to access this amazing and encouraging conference here.]

I am often asked what teaching history in this way actually looks like. What does it mean? How do we do it?

Teaching history from a Biblical perspective means keeping the right perspective. This requires us to gain the right God-view. Our God-view determines how we view everything else…how we view ourselves and how we process the world around us. 

The MAIN POINT of my workshop was this: The REASON for studying history is to better understand our own personal place in HIStory. 

Consider God’s ownership and involvement in history…

Everything in heaven and on earth is God’s. Every person who has every lived and who will live, was created by God and has been given a soul that belongs to God.  Everything we see around us and the things we have to look through a microscope or a telescope to view with our eyes are God’s. God is above all things, in all things, and knows all things. His perspective is the only 100% true perspective. Learning to look at people and events through the lens of the truth of His Word is the only way that we can get even the smallest amount of the true perspective of history. 

When we teach or learn history from a humanistic (human-centered) worldview, we are taking our story – the story of man – out of its true context. It is important for our children to know that history is not primarily the story of man, it is the story of man inside of the story and display of the sovereignty of God. By doing this, they learn their story in context. They learn that they are an important part of His story. Although He is intimately involved with our story, it is our stories that are woven through His, not His through ours. 

History teaches us about the nature of God: 

We know that we are here today and gone tomorrow, yet…

God has always been and always will be. He is transcendent yet immanent. He is above and separate, yet personal and with us. He is more than our minds can comprehend, yet He came to live among us. One of my favorite section of verses in the Bible is found in Hebrews 4.

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:14-16 [NLT]

We should always approach the teaching and learning of history with the attitude that says “no matter how much we learn about the events of the history of mankind on this planet, we will never know everything.” 

The events about which we learn are important; however, just as importantly, we need to know this: we are only part of the picture. 

When we learn history with this in mind, we are constantly reminded how finite we truly are in the whole scheme of things. It teaches respect for God who created that whole room and everything in it. It also gives comfort for the things that we don’t understand in our own lives. When we are faced with something that doesn’t seem fair, that is painful, or that feels like we can’t bear it, we can know that our good and holy God sees the whole picture, and we are seeing through the keyhole.

Only God knows everything that has ever happened. Only God knows every single person and everything about them: every hair on their heads, every thought, every cell of their bodies, every moment of every day of their lives. Not only does He know every person individually, but He also knows every single simultaneous event and every single way these events were connected to each other. 

He knows every single way and time His people brought light to the darkness. Every single heart that has turned towards Him and every single one that has turned away from Him. 

Approaching history like this is anything but sterile. It’s action, adventure, mystery, and romance. It’s an honest look at the really good and wonderful people and events and also the villains and their despicable acts. On the flip side, if we approach history as just another subject to “master for a test score,” it becomes dead and lifeless…a long litany of dry, boring facts to memorize. The life has been sucked out of it.

In his excellent book, IF, Mark Batterson says this about history: “Every moment is created by millions of ifs that combine in a million different ways to make the moment possible. It’s complicated – as complicated as the sovereignty of God. Yet as simple as if. History is like an intricately interwoven tapestry with infinite patterns that only the Omniscient One can see and foresee – but if threads the needle. Your ifs don’t just change the trajectory of your life; they change the course of history.” 

Many children are convinced that they don’t like history – that it has nothing to do with them. Honestly, this is a sign that they haven’t been exposed to real history. I am convinced that if we as parents would dread doing what we are putting in front of our children as “schoolwork” why in the world would the child connect or enjoy it?

Charlotte Mason recommended that young children be taught history using stories. She suggested that we use books written by authors who have a passion for not only the history being told but for the telling of the story

She suggested that children use books that “purl along pleasantly as a forest brook, tell you all about it, stir your heart for the story of a great event, amuse you with pageants and shows, make you intimate with the great people, and friendly with the lowly.”

My children grew up reading stacks upon stacks of historical fiction as well as many other types of books…we read all of the books by Marguerite Henry, Elizabeth Yates, Howard Pile, Robert Lawson, Genevieve Foster, and Scott O’Dell among numerous other authors. History and geography was alive with adventure! For example, we traveled the Great Lakes, the Oceans of the World, the trails west, and the Mighty Mississippi with Holling C Holling in his books Paddle to the Sea, Seabird, Tree in the Trail, and Minn of the Mississippi. 

We anchored these fiction to many original writings and my own history narratives that are now known as America’s Story and The World’s Story

My kids sketched and narrated their way through the broad scope of history in a relaxed and joy-inducing manner. In this way, even when they were small, my children enjoyed learning about the stories of history. 

I am asked on a regular bases when young children should begin formal history lessons. 

For my own children and all of the ones that I have taught, I have found that those who are just learning the reading and writing skills are best served with a less formal education – one that teaches them to observe the world around them. For children under 3rd grade, I generally encourage parents to fill their days with exploration, conversation, and relationship building. Model for them the art of going into nature and sitting quietly, and taking stock of what they are observing with their senses. 

When they were young, my children and I enjoyed reading beautiful children’s books together. We spent countless hours sitting together pouring over the pages of these books, studying every little detail of the artwork and talking about the way the words were woven together to create the story. We learned about many historical events and discussed many powerful character lessons through books like this. 

Charlotte Mason recommends, and I whole heartedly concur that children should be allowed to play what they learn. In our busy-schedule culture, we must be purposeful about creating time that our children can play to internalize what they are learning. 

For Such a Time as This…

As a mom, it is easy to look around me and fight panic about what is going on in our culture. I have to remind myself that God is not surprised, and He’s not panicked. He is the One who purposefully placed us here for such a time as this.

I want to encourage all of us to not allow fear to set our boundaries. We need to rise each morning, get our heads right by focusing on Jesus, armor up, and wrap the roots of our lives around the Rock of Ages. 

We also need to keep perspective about who our children truly are. They are this generation’s Daniels, Davids, Ruths, and Esthers, but they cannot become everything they were created to be if they are hiding under the couch with us. 

In Acts 2:17, God says “In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on your sons and daughters.” 

It is so important for our children to know that their lives matter in the whole story of history. They matter! God created them for this time. He has chosen them to be a light in this culture. If they learn to plug into Him, He will give them what they need. 

Jeremiah 29:11 is familiar to most of us. But take a close look at verses 12 and 13. They are the key that unlock the mysterious plan talked about in verse eleven.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT

I am SO EXCITED to announce the launch of my all new HISTORY PODCAST for KIDS! Here is the HOME PAGE where you can go to iTunes, Libsyn, and Spotify to listen to all of the episodes!

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