I’m back! We had family visiting and we spent a little time in the mountains this weekend. I had planned to keep up on the series, but in the end, I decided to take a break and enjoy spending time with people I love instead of hastily writing blog posts. If I had continued writing, the post quality would have suffered. The series will be finishing in early November instead of October 31, but we will still have 31 posts, as originally planned. Thank you all for your patience!
Day 24: Discussing Books and Ideas
As you have seen so far in the series, your students will be doing a great deal of reading, from a variety of books. It can be tempting to assign a page count for the day and leave your child to check off the assignment.
But page counts are not the important thing.
Your student could read 10 books in one week and not pause for a moment to think about what he has read. He could have covered a great deal of material, but very little of it will stick with him if he does not think and reflect upon it afterwards, either through narration or discussion.
It is of much more value to read a small amount and spend a good deal of time reflecting upon it than it is to read a ton of material with the goal of crossing it off the list.
Take the time to read the books you assign to your student. Either read it before you assign it, or read it together with your child. Afterwards, ask him what he thought of it. If you are just beginning to discuss the books you read, you may get some bland answers like, “It was good.” Always try to draw out a little more elaboration until you strike a nerve that gets him talking. “What was the most interesting part?” “Do you think this person made a good choice?” “Do you think it could have turned out differently? Do you think it should have turned out differently?” You can think of many more specific questions related to the individual book and it’s people and events. For a great introduction to discussing books with kids (focusing mainly on fiction books, but with excellent principles), read Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading. The authors run a book club for parents and their kids and they offer numerous examples of how they stimulate discussion and prompt the kids.
Not only should you discuss the content of the book, but you should also discuss the author’s treatment of it. Elsewhere, I’ve suggested that you pick books from a variety of perspectives. Teach your child to notice the author’s viewpoint and how it comes across in the text. Analyze the book in light of your own worldview.
Every parent wants to impart his own worldview to his children. This is perfectly natural. If you truly believe something, of course you want your child to know the truth. If you are of the opinion that you don’t want to influence your child’s beliefs, it’s possible you are either fooling yourself into thinking you are going to be an objective teacher or that you don’t truly believe your own professed worldview. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is absolute Truth and that it is inerrant. The Bible itself says it is the Truth, and it says it is the only Truth. Of course I will be teaching my children this Truth–their very souls are at stake here, and I don’t take that lightly. If I didn’t want to “impose my beliefs on them” for fear of brainwashing them, I would have to question whether I truly believe the Bible and whether I truly believe in Jesus or whether I truly care about my children.
Some parents believe that the only way to share their worldview with their children is to choose only resources they agree with. I would argue that this is unhelpful. If you never expose your child to other worldviews, he will eventually come across them years later and (a) not know how to handle them and (b) wonder why you never told him about them. If, as a child, I had been sheltered from all other perspectives, I might wonder if my parents were afraid mere exposure would sway me to them. I would think such perspectives must have some very strong and persuasive points that my parents were afraid to address. Thankfully, my parents were not afraid of discussing other worldviews with me or sharing their own thoughts on why they choose to believe the Bible instead of other things. Knowing that there are other things I could choose to believe, but also seeing that there are convincing reasons to believe the Bible, helped to ground my faith. “Here are some of the persuasive arguments of atheists. I am aware of these arguments, and yet I choose not to be an atheist. Here are some of the reasons I have chosen to believe in God instead.” Pretending atheism does not exist would be detrimental to the child who is going to encounter such arguments everywhere later in his life.
A good way to address other worldviews is to read books written from such other viewpoints and then discuss them together. This is a perfect opportunity for you to share your own faith with your child and the reasons why you believe what you believe.
On a practical level for the study of history, this can mean studying both the North and the South’s perspectives on the Civil War, both the Christian and Islamic perspectives on the Crusades, or traditional perspectives on historic events such as Columbus’ discovery of the New World and modern revisionist histories. Read them both and discuss them all along the way! You may be surprised at the deep conversations you end up having with your kids.
If you are going to do this, you must discuss the books with your child. Don’t simply throw a variety of books at him without any discussion. He may simply end up agreeing with the author who did a better job of writing, or he may end up confused about the whole thing. In fact, he might not even notice the differences in worldviews. You are only going to reap the benefits if you take the time to read the book yourself and discuss it with your child.