K is for…Keys

An organized and methodical approach to studying an individual in history is using James Rose’s method of these four important influences.

Key People: who was important to this individual? Family, friends, teachers, pastors, neighbors, employers–any of them can be instrumental in forming this person’s character and life choices.

Key Events: what happened to shape who they are? This key lends itself to a timeline to get a visual of how their life developed through the years, and also allows you to see what other things were happening in the world that could have had a remote influence as well.

Key Institutions: what type of education, government, worldview, financial system and philosophy contributed to the individual’s

Key Documents: what religious, governmental, and educational documents were in the individual’s sphere of influence? What correspondence was exchanged? Did they contribute writings or other creative works? What literature was important to them?

Studying these four keys will give you great insight into the individual and help you form a clear picture of them as a 3 dimensional person in history, not just a name in a book.

“The Mighty Works of God: Liberty & Justice for All” review

Mrs. Smith is the founder of Pilgrim Institute. She has written a history series for home educators called The Mighty Works of God. I have used this myself so I feel I can give an honest review. For this review I will refer to this title as LJFA.

This is the second book in the MWOG series, intended for younger elementary ages. First off, this is not an intimidating tome. The student text is less than 200 pages and the teacher’s text is only a few pages more. It is an easy read for the students.

The teacher’s guide provides three or more lessons per chapter. Mrs. Smith has supplied a leading ides for each lesson, along with reasoning questions and a synopsis of the chapter. A CD-ROM is included with the teacher’s guide full of printable maps, notebooking pages and charts that correspond with the lessons.

If you are new to BPA it can be a terrific way to ease into a subject without having to build lessons from scratch. And if you have Mr. Rose’s book, this text corresponds with year 3 (second grade) in the chart on p. 207.

LJFA covers all of history, from creation to today. She uses the theme of liberty to connect the lessons throughout the year. I like this because it adds continuity to the lessons. There are scriptures, poetry, biographies and more sprinkled throughout the text. Many color drawings add to the enjoyment as your child reads about Moses, Marco Polo, William Penn, Jedediah Smith and more. Benjamin Franklin seems to be a favorite historical figure with children and the stories about him in this volume are inspiring and a great place to pause for a “rabbit trail.”

Why you might like this

  • She weaves a beautiful story, revealing His Story as it marches through time. It is taught from a Providential history perspective, focusing on Biblical reasoning to learn about historical individuals and events.
  • It makes history an easily teachable subject.
  • You are provided the leading ideas for each lesson.
  • It is flexible. Because there are no daily plans you can use as many lessons as you like. You aren’t left feeling as if you haven’t covered something.
  • Reflection and reasoning are supplied.
  • It inspires affection for America’s Christian history.

Why you might not like this

  • Your educational philosophy doesn’t jibe with a Biblical Principle Approach philosophy.
  • You want daily lesson plans.
  • You want literature-based history.
  • You don’t want to teach from a Christian history worldview.
  • You want a textbook.
  • You want something the child can do independently. This requires the teacher to reason alongside the student.

There are no tests or quizzes. (or maybe this should be in the list above!)

I enjoyed using this with my children. We learned a lot. I didn’t feel rushed through a huge lesson schedule, so we could take out time and focus on reasoning and not just facts. I was also able to teach multiple grades with this (4th and 1st). A little modification makes this easy to use with several ages at once. And because the leading ideas are supplied, I didn’t have to do a lot of preparation before we could sit at the kitchen table and talk about His Story together. It began a lot of great conversations about the why’s of history. Not “why do we need to learn this” but why people do what they do and why things happen.

5 things America got right

I know my own principles to be pure and therefore am not ashamed of them. On the contrary, I wish them known and therefore willingly express them to everyone. They are the same I have acted on from the year 1775 to this day, and are the same, I am sure, with those of the great body of the American people.

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Smith, 1798

1. Separation of powers

The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election… They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided.

Alexander Hamilton

2. Dual form of government

Seldom today do we hear mentioned one of the most unique aspects of our Constitution—our dual form of government—the state and the nation. This refers to the national-federal structure of our Constitution. There is not a country today on the face of the globe that embodies this Christian principle of government—and we ourselves have allowed it to deteriorate.

Slater, R. J., & Hall, V. M. (1975). Teaching and learning America’s Christian history (American Revolution Bicentennial ed.) (242). San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education.

3. Negative rights

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.

Patrick Henry

4. Religious liberty

It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

Patrick Henry

5. Representative Republic

Modern times have discovered the only device by which the equal rights of man can be secured to wit: government by the people, acting not in person, But by representatives chosen by themselves…

Thomas Jefferson

A representative government, responsible at short intervals of election, produces the greatest sum of happiness to mankind.

Thomas Jefferson

We are history

History to many people seems like a dusty book that you bring out and teach your kids when you have to meet state requirements or because you “have to.” History is not that at all. It is not a stale timeline or disjointed facts from long ago. It’s alive and it’s happening all around you right now.

History, or His Story, is going on every second the clock is ticking. Yesterday is history, is it not? History is a record of all that has happened since God created time. But it really has always been because God’s story has always been. So we focus on man’s history but really it’s God’s story.

Why do I say we are history? Because we are in time, we are God’s story, we help further His story. One day my family, if no one else, will look back on what I’ve done and hopefully they will see that I furthered His Story in some way. I want them to be able to say that I had some hand in God’s plan for mankind, that I made a difference–even in only one life.

I know God is the only one that can truly know what impact my life has had here, and I look forward to those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” But I think there should be a trail behind me for others to follow. My history, intertwined with God’s, can lead others to the Truth long after I am gone.

Practical application of timelines

This is a guest post by JoAnne Bennett, a dear friend and mentor. She was kind enough to provide the following post and I’m so glad she did.

We will use the time line for the facts which must be memorized for that unit.  As we do an overview to introduce the unit, I emphasize that these are the most important events.  We will add other significant events as they are discovered and discuss their relation to the major events.

We usually draw separate time lines for political events and for spiritual developments during that period of history.  For literature, we will do one for the author’s life time and another for the setting of the story or the main character’s life.

photo courtesy Jon aslund

photo courtesy Jon aslund

The applications for time lines are numerous.  Perhaps the most indispensable is to show relationships between events.  One method is to use parallel time lines on the same page to show cause and effect.  You can then draw arrows from one line to the other to dramatize the relationship. For example, make a line for a Washington’s life and one for the historical events of that time.  Note how the events around the man affected his attitudes and accomplishments.  If he responded positively, the events could cause him to rise to greatness.  Point out that in every crisis God raises up a man to meet the needs of His people.

Another way to use parallel time lines is to color code specific periods or events.  When we studied the Middle Ages, we designated historic events on the basic time line.  Then we entered the periods of art and architecture as colored parallel lines: Byzantine was blue, Romanesque was red, and Gothic was yellow.  It was easy to see the political turmoil of the fifth and sixth centuries in Europe had a relationship to the simplicity of art and the elaborate adornment of the Gothic developed as prosperity came to the nobility through the feudal system.

Time lines give order and perspective to the events we study.  When we look at the “coon skin cap” and the “whale” stuck to our time line, it would be simple for even small children to reason that the time span is too wide for Jonah together.  Notice also how the important events get closer and closer together until, by the end, labels and pictures will overlap. God is certainly moving faster as we near the end of “the days of man.”

Another use of time lines is for periodic review.  No matter what time period we are studying, I will occasionally call for a “pop test” of  U.S. history. This is based on a time line we did which includes crucial developments such as Columbus in 1492, Pilgrims in 1620, Revolution in 1776, Civil War in 1860′s, World War I & II, etc.  When we hear some news story which compares an event to the Great Depression, I want my children to be able to tie that to something concrete in their minds. Having them draw a time line to recall those facts has been the most efficient use of our time.  It is much faster than writing an essay question or having mother devise a fill-in-the-blanks test — and it is quicker to grade.


Take the ideas I have presented and personalize them.  Improvise! Improve! See how many varieties you can use!  I believe you will agree it is one of the handiest tools in your “teacher’s bag.”

JoAnne Bennett is a seasoned Biblical Principle Approach mom. She has two grown children and three grandchildren, with one more due to arrive in June 2009. Since raising her own children, she teaches and mentors other home educators. Her internalization of Biblical Principles and application of a BPA philosophy makes her an important resource for home educating moms. You can find out more about her at her Web site, Academic Advantages.

Hope for the next generation

My oldest daughter (10) entered this year’s essay contest from our state’s Christian homeschool organization. The topic was “The Role of Christians in Government.” When I saw the title I knew she just had to enter. It took a lot of prodding but I finally got a paper out of her. She typed it up, then saw that it had to be hand written, so she copied it and we put both copies in the mail. A couple of days before Capitol Day we got that all-important email: she won!

The judges thought her essay was the best one entered in any age category. They wished the high schoolers could have written as well. Here is her essay in its entirety.

According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the word government means “who or what is in control.” In the Garden of Eden that Who was God, and He governed us internally. Then sin changed things and now we need more external government. That’s where Christians come in, offering God’ s idea of government.

One of the roles of Christians in government is to follow. Follow Jesus, that is. Always follow your leaders unless they do not line up with God’ s Word. Be a good example to other followers.

Another role is to pray. You need to pray for the right candidates to be elected. You also need to pray that the leaders we have will make right choices, according to 1 Timothy 2:1&2. Prayer sometimes makes the difference between life and death.

Still another role Christians have in government is to lead. When you lead as a Christian, you reflect God. God’s leadership is wise, consistent, righteous and just. In fact, the Bible in Job 34:17 says that you should not lead if you don’t agree with God’ s justice.

Christians get ideas regarding government from the Bible. The Founding Fathers called the Bible “America ’s political textbook.” Christian leaders should look to godly leaders in the Bible for insight and wisdom.

It is a great responsibility to elect our own leaders. We should vote carefully. The most basic role of Christians in government is to show others how God wants us to live, no matter what role we are in.

(C) 2009 Gabrielle Hawthorne

I share this not to get a pat on the back, but to demonstrate God’s faithfulness. When we instill Biblical principles in our children, they can think governmentally. It just becomes their way of thinking. I am raising the next generation of godly Christians who will hopefully lead and not blindly follow. This essay gives me much hope for America’s future.

And it was a real treat for her to win a prize for her hard work too! On Capitol Day February 10 we made a trip to Oklahoma City for her to receive her award. And when she received a copy of her citation a few days later she was over the moon. It’s a giant certificate with her essay printed in the body inside a blue folder. She will treasure it as one of her special homeschool memories. And so will I.

Find of the Week 6/22

Okay this book is another gem I found at my local used homeschool bookstore:

Watchwords of Liberty: A Pageant of American Quotations was I think $4 bucks or so. It’s a fabulous library copy with the pocket still in the front cover. The binding and cover are still in excellent shape so it will stand up to many happy years of reading.

The point of the book is to tell the stories behind  famous American phrases, such as, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” and, “Cotton is king,” and, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” Over 100 pages of terrific stories and tales of how these sayings came to be. It’s a wonderful addition to our history studies.

Christian History Lesson 1 part 2

I am not going to list all the questions from T&L here because it is copyrighted material. I will list my answers and discuss ideas but I am not going to copy and paste all the lessons. That wouldn’t be ethical (or legal!). It is up to you to go through these lessons yourself and answer the questions and do the reading.

What is a Leading Idea?

It is an idea that leads the reader down a certain line of thinking, toward a Biblical Principle. Leading ideas get you to think and not simply regurgitate facts. They help you to form your own thoughts on a topic.

Thoughts From the Leading Ideas

America is associated with the “principle of individuality” because we were founded upon Biblical principles, this being one. Without a Christian basis, the “principle of individuality” goes away. It is a distinctly Christian idea, so if the basis is removed the idea of the individual is replaced with a socialist one.

The socialist form of government is oppressive and over reaching as it demands conformity, redistribution and dependence upon the state in lieu of individual responsibility. This is what the founding fathers understood and worked to avoid. Their knowledge of God’s Word and His plan for human government helped the founding fathers to form a government that would maximize the potential of the individual without exploiting him for the state’s benefit.

Christian History Lesson 1 part 1

To begin our study of America’s Christian History we must discuss some basic ideas.

The Christian Idea of Man

The Christian idea of man is the basis for our form of government. It is also the foundational principle that the other 6 principles of America’s Christian History and Government. It is the idea that man is created in God’s image as a unique individual. All men are therefore created equal with independent value. This is a wonderful principle to meditate on. If we are unique, equal and have value, then the state is servant to us and not master.

The Purpose of Government

The state was created for man, not the other way around. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights from God and the responsibility to keep them is delegated to the state. Today this weighty task is not respected by federal government, but rather it is becoming more and more irrelevant. Our government (state and federal)  is moving more toward a pagan idea of government.

The Pagan idea of Man

To the pagans (pagan meaning those who are not Christians) is that man has value as related to the state. The state has all the power to control, not protect, our liberty. We also have a society that looks to the state as keepers or even dispensers of liberty. It is a socialist idea that pervades our society today. Our citizens have not been educated on the Christian idea of man so we should not expect anything different.

I will go into more detail on the Leading Ideas (step 2) in the next post.

HisStory lesson planning

I know I’ve already addressed planning lessons and all sorts of other things for HisStory, so please check the topic in the sidebar for all that good stuff. What I want to discuss is what your lesson should contain.

I like parameters, boundaries, limits. I like to know expectations and standards (which is another post coming soon!) so when I plan lessons I like to know what it is I’m supposed to do. I want to be a more spontaneous educator, but right now I have to work with the personality God gave me, which seems really boring at times. I love A Guide to American Christian Education for many many reasons, but one of them is all the suggestions and lists and helpful lesson planning stuff that’s in that great book. One thing is the handy list that Mrs. Ruth Smith put together regarding HisStory lesson plans.

If you plan your HisStory lessons (and it works with any subject really), then you will have structure and hopefully the results you are after. The lesson should include 5 things:

  1. Goal(s): (see GACE p. 204)
  2. Content: what the lesson is to be about
  3. Principles: one or more of the seven principles of America’s Christian History and Government
  4. Methodology: sources, notes to be taken, etc (recording)
  5. Assignments

When I use the goals, together with this simple list, my planning is simple and focused and my lessons get results. Planning your own lessons is not a mysterious or overwhelming process. It is simply a matter of taking things one step at a time.