When Cyndy started homeschooling our children in 1985, we talked (a lot) about what we wanted to teach them, and how. For the first few years, the basics of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic were fairly obvious and straightforward – Cyndy had taken several education methods courses and already understood the phonics vs. whole-word controversies.
It took us a while to settle on an overall scope and a method for teaching history.
After several disappointing experiences with textbooks, Cyndy discovered that our children loved biographies (surprise!), and that textbooks were useful only as references to be consulted briefly for overview.
As we talked and thought about that, we were strongly persuaded that teaching history chronologically was the simplest, most direct, most effective way to cover history for our children. I had spent two years in college in a chronological humanities program, based almost entirely on original source readings (at Davidson College). My grad school experience was a delight when I discovered that Stanford offered a joint degree in History and Humanities. I joined a two-year seminar with graduate students from a variety of departments as we went through a two-year chronological humanities program, based almost entirely on original source readings.
As we started to speak to other homeschool support groups and at convention seminars, one of the most frequent first questions was, “Where do I start?”
Our answer was always the same: with the Bible and the history of Israel.
About a third of the books of the Old Testament are grouped together as “Historical” books (12 out of 39). In addition, over half the Pentateuch is devoted to the history of the Patriarchs and the origins of Israel. And all of the prophetic books contain some historical narrative, with over half of Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Daniel being devoted to history.
It is an understatement to proclaim that History is an important part of the Old Testament.
It is important that our children know the history of Israel. The best way to teach them the history of Israel is to read the Bible to them.
The Old Testament is neither too hard, nor is it too difficult for children to understand. Just because they don’t understand every detail (or the implications of every event) does not mean that there is not immense value in reading the stories of the Old Testament to them.
We have always begun our study of history with our children by reading the Bible to them and studying the history of Israel.
Parents often ask us, what reference books or resource material do you use to teach the Bible to children. We have always answered, “The best resource for teaching the Bible to children, is the Bible.” All of the books ABOUT the Bible are less important than the Bible itself.
It is the Bible that Moses is describing when he tells parents in Deuteronomy 6:6 & 7:
6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
For years, we encouraged parents to read the Bible to their children, and for years parents kept asking us for a study guide that would help them teach the Bible to children. Finally, in 1994, AFTER we had written study guides for Egypt, Greece, Rome & the Middle Ages we wrote The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History.
I’ll repeat the assertion from the title of this post. This is a book you don’t need to buy. The important book is one you already have, your Bible. But, if you have decided to teach the history of Israel to your children AND to use the Bible as your text, you may find that The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History will be helpful to you.
It is NOT a workbook for students. It is a guide for parents and teachers. It organizes the historical books of the Old Testament into 180 daily readings (the length of one school year). The readings average one, sometimes two chapters a day. The basic pattern is to read the chapter from the Bible to your children. Then ask them to tell you the story in their own words. Then, we include some discussion questions that will help you to profitably discuss the chapter. If this sounds a bit like the Charlotte Mason principles of narration – that’s what we were aiming for!
And I’ll repeat, one more time, the title of this post: This is a book you don’t need to buy. The most important book you can teach to your children is the Bible.
If The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History has helped and encouraged families over the years to teach the Bible to their children, then it’s probably the most important book that Cyndy and I have done.
You can order it (if you must!) directly from Greenleaf Press for $12.95.
– Rob Shearer, Publisher