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History Developing Godly Children

By Rob and Cyndy Shearer
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #11, 1996.

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Rob and Cyndy Shearer

As homeschoolers, we practice outcome-based education. We don’t consider our task to have been successfully accomplished just because the students survive the year and finish reading most of the textbook. We don’t consider scoring above the 50th percentile on the social studies section of the standardized achievement test to be success either.

The ultimate outcome is for our children to develop into godly men and women. We would like them to serve God with their talents: to always be ready to share the Word and give a persuasive answer for the hope that is within them. We think the study of history is useful towards these ends.

Lives of the Rich and Famous
(and Poor and Famous, Too!)

We want our children to develop godly character and acquire wisdom. After some months or years of practice, they should be able to, on their own, examine, analyze, and evaluate the character of a historical figure using biblical standards.

Using historical biography to teach character and wisdom is certainly not a 20th century innovation. Rather, this method represents a return to the traditional study of history.

Neither history nor historians have ever been neutral. History, in the hands of a God-fearing, truthful, scrupulous historian rises to the definition of “moral philosophy teaching by example.”

However, all the historical personages your child studies need not be godly or moral men or women. Many useful lessons can be learned by applying biblical standards to the choices and actions of someone in history. We cannot judge the heart (only God can do that), but we can judge actions—their wisdom or folly, morality or immorality, and their consequences.

If we train our children to apply biblical thinking in all sorts of historical situations, they will make the applications in their own lives. The study of history may not build character all by itself, but it can certainly reinforce, exercise, solidify, and confirm it.

Who’s In Charge Here?

We want our children to understand God’s view of history, God’s purposes in history, and God’s involvement in history.

Something of a revival has occurred in the “providential view of American history.” Writers re-examining American history and emphasizing God’s involvement deserve applause and appreciation.

We encourage all Christians to broaden their horizon and consider God’s providential involvement in all of history—American included! By reading the biblical account of the history of Israel, your children will become familiar with the pattern by which God acts in history—blessings for righteous obedience, judgment for lawlessness. Since nations cannot be judged eternally, God works directly in history to bless or to judge.

Has he done this in American history? Undoubtedly. But more broadly, God providentially involves himself in the history of all the nations of the world. We must insure that our children understand this principle so that they can recognize and proclaim it.

Parents need to examine and scrutinize the selection of books for their children. Most secular textbooks are governed by an underlying assumption of the myth of progress—with no acknowledgment of God’s role in history.

Many profitable books can be used in the study of history, but many of them need parents to add some perspective, reminder, or recognition of God’s sovereignty.

The Church and Its Impact on History

Finally, we think it important for our children to understand the role and development of the church, true religion, and its impact on history. To paraphrase Otto Scott, prior to the arrival of Mosaic law and the Christian church, practically every human culture practiced human sacrifice and tyrants ruled without restraint.

Each individual has certain rights bestowed upon him by God. This is one of the many blessings of the gospel. But this example points out one of the reasons why we stress laying a foundation BEFORE beginning American history. Our political institutions and culture did not spring “ex nihilo” from the mind of Thomas Jefferson. Instead, we can trace their development in a continuous, fascinating line back to the ancient classical civilizations of Israel, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

If we are successful in teaching history, our children will understand that the problems faced in our culture are neither new nor novel. We can avoid a number of costly mistakes if we are willing to turn to the examples left by history—where we can find examples of wisdom and righteousness which God has blessed.

If we leave our children ignorant of history, they will find it very difficult to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

We should teach history and measure the success of our teaching by our children’s ability to apply its lessons in their own lives, recognizing the heritage of the past in our culture, and seeing God’s sovereign hand in blessing and judging.

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