by Aleta Samford
Synopsis: Revisiting the topic of "Teaching Our Children," Aleta reminds us of the pivotal importance of laying the proper foundation on which decisions may be formed and actions properly based.
We introduced the Law of the Lesson in June's article with a problem our family faced in our son's fifth grade elementary class. The issue concerned the surprising introduction of a new philosophy curriculum. After reviewing the material, we asked that our son be excluded from the class.
Here were our objections: (1) The moral issues and situations that occurred among the children in the curriculum's instructional scenarios had definite answers found in God's word, but the students were encouraged to express their own conclusions with the assurance that there were no wrong answers. (2) The children became the highest standard. (3) The "active force" in the students' minds and lives was not God. (See quote in June article, Gregory, 67). Our goal was that God and His Word be the "active force" in our children's lives.
Paul said, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Col. 2:8). The footnote for the phrase "cheat you" (NKJV) says "plunder you" or "take you captive." Jacob was still very young, and we didn't want this philosophy class to take his mind captive and cheat him of the goals we had for him, a goal that focused on God's word as the answer to all the issues of life.
To help illustrate this further, imagine a stairway. Step by step, children learn new things with the help of old, familiar things. No right-thinking mother would place her baby at the top of the stairs to learn to climb! They must get comfortable with those first steps. The philosophy class in the 5th grade would have put our "babe" on the top step of solving moral issues, which would have been spiritually dangerous. Jacob's ability to discern right from wrong was not equipped to take on discussions about moral issues with other children and void of God's presence. (As a senior in high-school, the same scenario presented itself and he was prepared!)
Foundational steps must be built over a child's lifetime. Taking it one step at a time, we proceed from what the children know to what they do not know. That's common sense. That's the Law of the Lesson. "The truth to be taught must be learned through truth already known."
This is also the way we should plan and teach each lesson in the classroom. We want to lead their minds, step by step, helping them build on new information and in the process, train them to come to the proper conclusions—God's conclusions. Moreover, from my experience, this is the best way to get and to control their attention (the Law of the Learner).
In the February 2016 issue, I introduced a little boy named Billy. In just one class period, I connected with him by finding the step he was on and helping him build from there (the Law of the Lesson). The "old familiar things" is how we speak their language, drawing them in (the Law of the Language), and, let's not forget the importance of being well prepared in the first place (the Law of the Teacher).
The children in the philosophy class were placed in a teetering position at the top of the stairs as the teacher basically asked, "What does this mean to you?" regarding several moral issues. This kind of question, if asked before one has laid proper foundations of knowledge, encourages answers based on one's opinions and speculations. We ask this question when we are ready to make applications, not before truths and facts are gathered.
When you descend the stairway and ask the right questions to find where your students are, they will feel you entering their world and become interested, empowered and motivated to take in more information. The right questions we should be asking—and that we should encourage our students to ask—will be discussed in the next article.
Author Bio: Aleta is the wife of Gene Samford who preaches for the church that meets in Kemp, TX. She has taught Bible classes for 42 years and, to help other women join the ranks, presents a series of lessons based on God's word, The Seven Laws of Teaching, and her own experiences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.