Friday, June 24, 2011

Teaching Worldview: Preparing my kids to understand their world

One of the advantages of homeschooling is the opportunity we have to step back from the traditional curriculum that schools follow and make time for discussions that will have an impact on our kids for the rest of their lives. Teaching my kids to think about life's big questions is one of the important strands I wanted to make sure I was weaving into our lives. I want them to understand that everyone has a view on these important questions and these will undoubtedly affect how they live their lives. My hope is that they will be able think through and understand what they believe and what they stand for, but not only that, I want them to realise that everyone has a worldview and appreciate where they are coming from. Once they have grasped those ideas, hopefully they will be able to critically wrestle with what they read and see in the media and to discern and perceive the worldviews behind the statements and rhetoric they will face each day.

This may be a tall order for young kids but it doesn't mean we can't start to lay a foundation that will help them as they grow up - and kids are growing up so fast these days. As a Christian family, we ultimately want them to have a living, truthful, intimate relationship with God and to fully grasp the foundations of their faith. We also hope to equip them not just with the knowledge of their faith and of other faiths or philosophies which people adhere to (consciously or not) but to enable them to walk with integrity and grace towards all people. 

So where do we start? 

First, we teach them our worldview:  this happens in part through our daily discussions during our family devotions - where we learn from the bible and tackle issues of right and wrong, what is good and bad, love and grace, life and death.

However, the real life lessons come from watching us live it out (or as the case may be - failing miserably to live it out) as role-models. I've come to accept that our failures are wonderful teaching opportunities - because even as they see us - as parents - fail, they also see us apologise, repent, resolve, struggle, and surrender. In seeing our imperfection and our response - they learn.

{I hope they learn that our knees should always be bent in humility and that our hands should be ceaselessly outstretched upwards to the one who is Grace and that our hearts can only survive if they flow with forgiveness.}

Secondly, we give them the big picture. Here I use two tools - Current Affairs: what is happening in the world today and structured study. 

I got a great idea from a veteran homeschooler to put a map in our home and talk constantly about current affairs. And as we talk about what is going on in the world, we mark the places in the map with newspaper articles or pictures of the leaders of the world. We should be talking about what is happening around the world and why, about leaders of countries, democracies and dictatorship, responsible government, about elections, ecosystems and economies. And after all that talk, what better thing to do than PRAY. It is an excellent way to teach our kids to be global thinkers, to always have the bigger view by looking at what is happening around us every day. Of course, what you choose to talk about will depend a great deal on the age of your kids but getting into the habit of talking about the world around us is a good start to them understanding our world and how it works as they get older and can address more complex issues. 

The second more obvious step is to undertake a structured study of worldviews. As we are at the beginning stages of our worldview studies with pre-teens - we have opted for an introductory course which I've found to be excellent. We are using The Young Historian's Introduction to Worldview by Brimwood Press. It is aimed at about grades 5-8 and is set out in a series of short chapters that have discussions and hands-on activities to aid understanding of big concepts like "What is a Worldview?", "What do all worldviews have in common?" and "How to Identify different worldviews?". You can read Cathy Duffy's review here. She makes a good point that although there is a subtle slant towards Christianity - the material itself can be used by families of different beliefs or philosophies as a foundational study for worldview as it takes a discovery and discussion approach to the subject. It is set out in four chapters but we have broken up each chapter into smaller more manageable portions within our time constraints. My book came with a bag of all the materials we would need for the hands-on activites which was wonderful. I can imagine that having to come up with the materials myself would have meant the book sitting on the shelf unused for quite a while.

When we complete this study, I plan to move on to a study of Christian apologetics - laying out the foundations, evidence and reasonableness of our personal faith. I haven't yet found a curriculum per se but intend to use some of the following books as a basis for our study. These will cover evidence for faith in Christ and deal with big questions like "Why does God allow suffering?", "Is God good?" or "Do all religions lead to God?" and so on.

Searching Issues: The Most Common Questions Encountered in the Search for Faith (Alpha)The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict Fully Updated To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians TodayCase for Christ for Kids, Updated and Expanded (Case for... Series for Kids)Don't Check Your Brains at the Door: A Book of Christian Evidences (Know What You Believe and Why)

I am also looking at curriculum and books from Summit Ministries - they have a whole range of interesting books catering to elementary students to High schoolers. I have ordered their Lightbearers study for middle-schoolers as it looked very helpful and thorough (although I have not actually looked at the full content or used it as yet). It is said to cover the tenets of the Christian faith and compares them with leading humanistic worldviews, teaches the student how to apply their faith to all ares of life from ethics, law, politics, history, economics and so on. It also deals with issues like abortion, relativism, relationships, cults and pluralism.

Finally, working on teaching logic and critical thinking is another important aspect of teaching our kids to think. It is an issue of teaching kids HOW to think not just What to think. I think this requires the parent to allow and encourage questions (even when it can get a little tiresome or when you may not necessarily have the answers and especially when it starts to tread ground on areas you might not feel so comfortable with). The temptation is often to tell them the answer rather than explore and guide them to the answer but I think the process of helping them make the connections themselves is a good basis for their future critical thinking. It is useful to ask them open-ended questions, sometimes playing devil's advocate or at least helping them to see things from different perspectives. I think active listening and encouraging them to be real and voice their doubts, concerns or confusion is supremely important. Kids get very good at giving the answer that is expected from them and it takes patience and wisdom to draw out how they really feel. 

In terms of material that one can use for critical thinking and teaching logic - I like the look of this series very much:

The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning
This is but one layer in equipping our kids to go into the world with all the tools they will need to understand the world around them, to stand firm in their values and beliefs and to be able to  communicate effective, clearly and compassionately. There are many other layers that prepare a child to face their futures with confidence - love, grace, healthy relationships, wisdom, life skills and academic training - all of which are equally important. Every parent wants to prepare their child to live to their fullest potential and for them to stand for what they believe, and I believe that this is one essential key for helping them do that.                         

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