Many of us are familiar with the Bible verse, ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for corrections, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16). We often marvel at how a book consisting of 66 books, written by some 40 authors over about 2000 years is consistent with itself, and speaks throughout all generations. One wonderful thing about home education is that we can talk about and share the Bible stories with our children, contextualising them to wherever we are. We can discuss a situation in the light of scripture, and that favourite text from Deuteronomy Chapter 6 comes to life, ‘And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart, you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when your rise up’.
We have just returned from a couple of months in rural Africa. There were some stories which took on a new life for the children, and I’d like to share a couple.
1) The woman at the well (John Chapter 4). The boys saw what hard work it was to draw water from a well. They saw that people would gather to draw water in the relative cool of the mornings and evenings, but only a glutton for punishment would go out to draw water in the heat of the day. They also could recognise how water drawing, although a chore, was an important time of community in the village, a time when the women would talk and laugh together and the children would play. They then understood that for the Samaritan woman to be out in the middle of the day, there really did have to be a problem in her relationship within her village. And yet that was the woman to whom Jesus went with his wonderful message of life.
2) The instruction in 2 Corinthians 6:14, ‘Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers’. There were very few motor vehicles in the village, but we would often see ox carts and donkey carts pulling heavy loads. Sometimes the oxen almost seemed to be fighting against the yoke, but had no choice but to pull together. It was dramatic, and a very graphic illustration of what being yoked could mean.
3) All the stories of the fishermen on the lake, and also of Jesus cooking breakfast for the disciples on a fire after His resurrection (as described in the gospel of John Chapter 21). We saw fishermen, and the work that was involved. We saw stormy waters. We cooked fish over an open fire in our garden. The boys’ eyes lit up when we then read them those stories from the Bible as they could recognise and relate in a new way.
4) The power of the ocean. We start each morning with a Psalm, and when we read Psalm 98 verse 7, ‘Let the sea roar, and all its fullness’, my eldest boy told me that the sea did not roar. Several days later, as we stood on the beach, I asked him what noise the sea was making, and he was delighted to hear it roar. They were amazed by the noise and the power of the ocean
5) Along those lines was a fresh wonder at the words of Micah, ‘He will gain have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea’ (Micah 7:18-19). They may not have understood this fully, but they could see how anything left on the beach (or sandcastles they had built) were utterly swept away without trace.
6) Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John Chapter 13). Our feet were filthy for most of the time there! It was the dry season, and everywhere was covered in dust. Even after washing (in a bucket of cold water), there was ingrained dirt on our feet. In the UK, we don’t always understand just what feet can get like in hot, dusty climates!
7) God’s words to Abraham, that his descendents would outnumber the stars (Genesis 15 verse 5); the stars were incredibly bright and clear in Africa, and we would tease the boys by asking them to try and count them all.
8) Similarly, the beautiful words of Psalm 8, ‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?’ The sky was so incredible that on a couple of occasions we got the boys up from their beds in the middle of the night to stand outside and marvel.
9) The parable about the separation of the sheep and the goats (Matthew Chapter 25). I often wondered, ‘What kind of fool could not distinguish a sheep from a goat?’ But that was in the UK, where the breeds of sheep and goat with which we are familiar are very clearly distinct. Not so in Africa! In fact it could be quite confusing at times, and my three year olds would more often correct me. ‘Why did you think it was a goat, mummy?’ – a perfect time to discuss with them how things can appear similar yet be radically different!
These are just a few examples. Soon, I must write a similar discussion regarding the opportunities that we have in the UK; it is easy to be excited and enthused by that which is novel, and not appreciate what is ‘normal’ and routine to us. I’d also love to know of your day-to-day examples of teaching the Bible to your children.