Gone are the days when snow, water outages or pandemics meant children stayed home with no academic responsibilities. Virtual learning means school continues – no matter what. There are several hidden gifts in those virtual days, however. Cutting out travel time and extra curricular activities means your kids have extra free time in their days. Why not claim some of that for God?
There are lots of great ways to add activities that encourage your kids to spend time with God and learn more about Him. Here are a few of our favorites.
Take a snow stroll. The Bible tells us God’s creation points us to Him. Snow changes how the world looks, sounds and even smells. Take your kids for a stroll, asking them to point out the things that are different from a regular non-snow day. Older kids may enjoy taking photos that show the beauty of God’s blessing of snow. Over a cup of hot cocoa after your walk, ask your kids why they think the things they saw could point people to God.
Practice academic skills with a biblical framework. Our website has tons of activity ideas tied to Bible stories and academic skills like language arts, math, second languages, science, health and even survival skills. Look around for some skills your kids need to practice. Have fun teaching them the connected Bible story and doing the activity. (http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/)
Have a family devotional. What better time to start that family devotional habit? Our website can be searched for family devotional ideas or use some of the activity ideas on our ministry website.
Serve one of your neighbors. Make some soup or homemade bread for a neighbor. Offer to shovel their sidewalk. Find ways for your family to serve others around you with some of your extra time.
Teach your kids a Christian life skill. Our free teen curriculum can be adapted for older children, too. In addition to the Bible lesson, you will find activities teaching your kids important Christian life skills like godly conflict resolution. They also give your kids guided practice, so they will know how to do what God wants them to do.
Encourage your kids to discover, develop and/or use the talents God gave them to serve Him. Your kids probably have things they have wanted to try, but never seem to have the time to do. Encourage them to take some time to try or read about a possible new talent. Or let them work on developing a talent they’ve already discovered or help them find a way to serve someone using one of their talents.
The next time your kids have a virtual learning day, use some of that redeemed time to teach them something God wants them to know or encourage them to use some of that time spending time with God and serving Him. It’s a great way to help your kids build a strong faith foundation and reach their godly potential.
There is a lot of misinformation floating around Christian circles about how children were perceived, educated and involved in spiritual life during the time of Jesus and in the early Church. Often this misinformation is based on writers who didn’t thoroughly research the topic or didn’t have access to primary source documents and then that incomplete or inaccurate information used as an excuse for the often subpar spiritual education provided by Churches (i.e. “It’s the parents’ responsibility, not the Church’s, to provide quality spiritual education for children. It wasn’t provided during Bible times, so why do we need to provide it now? It’s not an issue if young people aren’t really learning anything in our Bible classes.”)
The reality of spiritual education for Jesus and other Jewish children during his childhood and for the children of early Christians was more nuanced. The reality of spiritual education in those times does not in any way remove the responsibility of the Christian community found in the Church to assist parents by providing quality spiritual training for children. This post may be a bit more academic than most of our posts, but if you want to engage in meaningful conversations on the topic, you need to be armed with some helpful background information.
First, those who dismiss or minimize the need for quality religious instruction in ministry settings are at least partially correct. In the early Old Testament times, parents were the primary source of spiritual education. In fact, parents did not view childhood as a time to focus on play, but rather on preparing for adulthood both spiritually and in the roles their children would play as adults.
Parents actively taught their children the scriptures, gave them correction when they disobeyed or showed character that was not what God would want and modeled the life God wanted them to live. They also used the various Feasts in the Bible as interactive ways to review important Bible stories, commands and principles. Children were also expected to sit and listen whenever the priests read the Law to the people.
Things changed when the Jews were taken into captivity and again when they returned. The synagogues began during captivity to replace at least some of the functions of the destroyed Temple. They were kept upon the people’s return to Israel and it seems every village had its own synagogue that was used for worship and as a school for children.
Synagogues were tasked with keeping the people on track spiritually through teaching and other activities. This included helping the parents educate their children. In 75 B.C.E. elementary education was declared compulsory, so Jesus, like all of the other Jewish children of his time would have attended school at the local synagogue. There is some debate about how much education girls were given, with the general consensus that primarily boys attended the synagogue schools, but girls were often homeschooled with a similar curriculum.
The teachers used what we call the Old Testament as the only textbook. Children began attending school at about the same age as children today. They were taught to read using the Bible and were tasked with memorizing large portions of scripture including Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Numbers 15:37-41, Psalms 113-118 (chapters), the first several chapters of Genesis and the essence of Leviticus/the Law. They also each had to memorize a portion of scripture that was determined by the child’s name and contained about twenty verses. They of course were also taught what the scriptures meant and how to live them in their lives.
There were two basic types of synagogue schools in the time of Jesus. The one Jesus attended focused more on the spiritual teachings of the Law and the Prophets rather than the many oral traditions that had developed over the years. Children were also taught mathematics, astronomy and the natural sciences, which they somehow related back to the scriptures. There is thought that the science lessons were actually based on writings of Solomon that are no longer available, although I couldn’t find any actual evidence those existed and were used in synagogue schools.
In the afternoon, children went home to learn a trade they would ply as adults. This means about four hours a day were spent in active religious instruction in addition to what the parents taught and reinforced at home. This amount of time is interesting, because recent research is finding kids who are engaged in about 15-20 hours a week spiritually (including independent engagement in spiritual disciplines, worship and conversations about God) were more likely to be active, productive Christians as adults than children who spent much less time engaged in spiritual pursuits as children.
The early Christians must have realized the necessity of controlling their children’s education fairly early. After the split with Judaism and the inclusion of Gentiles in Christianity, the synagogue schools would have no longer been an option. Not enough research has been done on the topic, but the little that has been done suggests an early mix of education for children raised in Christian homes.
Many children who were not Jewish had been attending secular Roman schools. Some parents initially left their children in those schools and supplemented with religious instruction at home. Unfortunately, Roman schools also taught Roman morals and the Roman religion which did not align with Christianity. As a result, it appears many Christians began homeschooling their children. As the persecution of Christians began to die down, the first Christian schools emerged to help parents.
Spiritual education for children was a top priority for the Jews and the early Christians. In fact, the Talmud says, “The world is preserved by the breath of children in the schools.” The Talmud also says, “Jerusalem was destroyed because the education of children was neglected.” It’s important to remember the goal of education was spiritual – not secular – even though some secular topics were taught. The writers of the Talmud realized, the moment they stopped doing their very best to teach their children what God wanted them to know, was also the moment everything fell apart. If we look at the world around us and the Church at large, we may be seeing the same dynamic at play. It’s past time to make the spiritual education of our children our number one priority.
Have you decided to homeschool this year? Or has your local school system decided you will be doing some sort of online learning with your kids? Maybe you are a veteran homeschool family just looking for new activity ideas. Regardless of your need, we have hundreds of free ideas to help!
Our Teach One Reach One website has over two hundred Bible lessons for children. Under each Bible lesson, you will find a wide variety of activity ideas. Originally designed for faith based tutoring ministries, our academic activities will help you tie learning about Bible stories to getting needed practice on various academic skills.
Best of all, the activities are engaging, hands-on, meaningful and memorable. Many require items you probably already have around your house or can order easily online. While written for groups of children, most of the activities are easily adaptable to family groups.
We have free activity ideas for ESL (which can provide supplemental language arts activities or can be used with any second language your child is learning), basic and advanced elementary language arts, basic and advanced elementary math, science, health and even sustenance and survival.
If you want to have an actual Bible class as part of your homeschool curriculum, we also have free ideas for Bible activities, application activities and even service projects.
Feel free to share this resource with other parents. We are continually adding new activity ideas and hope to have them further organized by subtopic soon. We pray you have a great school year and let us know if we can help in any way!