I am starting to enjoy seeing how one thing leads to another with children’s minds, and how there are just so many wonderful lessons to be embraced through daily living. Right now, we are entering autumn. The nights are drawing in (leading to lots of questions about why it is dark at bedtime and in the mornings, which leads on to discussions of times and seasons, of the earth and the sun, of different countries and different parts of the world – the very first chapters of the Bible talk about a lot of these issues as they describe God’s creation...). It is getting cooler – warm clothes are needed, and sometimes we put the heating on (more questions about how this works, the difference between a radiator and a fire, and yes, the ancient Romans!). We are having great walks in the parks and seeing the trees turning into beautiful colours – great practice for my two year old in naming and describing his colours. Also, promoting discussions of how wonderfully designed God’s creation is! We match oak trees and acorns (quite a few matching and counting games go on here), and see the squirrels busily storing things up for winter. We hunt for the best conkers, and pretend we are exploring deep in the jungle. And they are fascinated by fruit. There are two main categories, ‘bird berries’ which we should not eat, and different varieties of ‘people berries’ for which we can forage. And from there, more discussions about food, and recipes and cooking, and often a bowl of delicious fruit crumble after a brisk walk.
Fruit. That was what I wanted to write about today. We’ve been thinking about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23 – ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’) There is so much in the Bible that is visual, associated with nature and the world around us. And what better way to teach, than to be experiencing these things, to be exploring them with a hunger to learn, rather than trying to force a set pattern of lesson or worksheet within a constrained time period? So, as we see the oak trees and their acorns, or the horse chestnut trees and their conkers, we can talk about how a tree is known by its fruit (cf Matthew 12:33 ‘Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit’). What does that mean in our lives? And ultimately, where does that fruit come from? Earlier in the year, we looked at Psalm 1, and learnt about trees and roots, and how as a Christian we should be rooted in God, and His truth. We planted cress and saw the roots quickly grow down towards the water, followed by the shoots upwards. We drew many pictures of trees, and the boys learnt both the psalm (if a three year old can be expected to know a nursery rhyme, why shouldn’t they be expected to memorise a psalm? I think we can limit them by our expectations) and a song to go with it. We basically did a ‘unit study’ (I am using this term, to explain it to you, because I can find myself intimidated by the terminology used in education, and on some of the homeschooling sites I have looked at; basically what I am describing in this post would be a great unit study, but I was not aware of the term before) on plants, growth, and the scriptures which use these as analogies. Now we have moved on, to autumn, to fruit, and also to the fact that grass withers and flowers fade but God and His word are eternal (Isaiah 40 verse 8). I did not plan it this way, but I have been amazed at how much of the previous lessons the boys remember, and how they are building upon their understanding every day. As they explore, I am trying to tap into the lessons they are learning and maximise and consolidate these.
So, I have spent some time looking online to see whether there are any helpful resources I can benefit from for teaching young children about the fruit of the Spirit. I have come across helpful ideas such as those contained here: http://ministry-to-children.com/fruit-of-the-spirit-index/. But really, no such resources are needed if you just follow the lead that the children are setting. We know the Bible verses (or can use a concordance or software/ websites such as www.biblegateway.com to help us). It is not too challenging to find a craft, an art activity and a recipe for many of the lessons learnt. And it is fun! I can imagine this kind of thing developing into a spiral curriculum as the years pass.
As I reflect on this, I look back to a previous post where I asked, should I use a curriculum at pre-school level?. I find myself realising that for young children, worksheets and structure may have an occasional role, but it is far more enjoyable and more productive to embrace the opportunities that arise through the inquisitive exploration of the world around them. By relaxing and letting these opportunities develop, I find that I am covering vast areas of Bible, history, geography, science and nature, music, literature, cooking, art and probably more. Yes, I appreciate that some areas may lend themselves more to this type of study than others, but I am increasingly convinced that at ‘pre-school’ level, the majority of major subjects can be covered in such a manner.
Previously, I have reflected on the lessons which can be learnt through daily life, such as cooking or a walk in the park.Today's reflection is a continuation of this line of thought. I hope it encourages you to see the many exciting opportunities that surround you - with no need for specific teaching methods, extreme effort, expensive resources, textbooks or curricula, but simply getting into your child's mindset and exploring their world with them.