Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What homeschooling is all about

As I often do, I looked over on the right-hand side of my blog this morning to see "what's new." (If you're reading this post on Facebook, maybe you've never seen my blog. I have a bunch of widgets and links to all kinds of things I find interesting: for example, This Day in History, Today's Birthday (some famous person--contemporary or historical; one never knows!), Article of the Day, Quote of the Day, Unreached People of the Day, and--one of my personal favorites and the subject of this post--Sonlight Moments.

I began my perusal of the Sonlight Moments with The Romans Are Coming!

Cute! Fun.

But then I went to Window on the World/Geography Songs SL [Sonlight] moment.

Whoa! Blow me away! Amazing!

And then, topping that one, in many ways--it's so completely unexpected, I think: Substitutional Atonement for a 6 year old. (Wha-???)

Let me quote a bit from the Window on the World post. (This isn't completely out-of-the-ordinary, as I'll demonstrate in a moment.):
My three kids and I went out with a friend the other day to help her register for her baby shower. While I was looking at some books, a man with a very unusual French sounding accent was helping her finalize her account. He was asking her about her nationality when I walked over. I asked him where he was from and he said "Africa."

Being curious and knowing that my son is a geography nut, I asked, "Where in Africa?" He looked at us like, "I can't believe you even care" but told us "Burkina Faso."

I asked my son if he knew where that was and he said yes. Then I vaguely
remembered hearing that name recently and asked Isaac (my 7yo) if we had learned about any tribes from there. He quietly said, "Lobi." I repeated it and the man about fell over.

He said, "How do you know about the Lobi? I lived 15 miles from them back home."
. . . Sorry. I'm going to force you to read the original to get "the rest of the story." --This family has acquired a new--and very astonished--friend.


I said I would demonstrate that this kind of behavior among Sonlight homeschooled kids isn't all that out-of-the-ordinary.

A couple of "old" stories along similar lines. (I have seen many more--and many far more astonishing stories, but for some reason I'm just not finding them this morning!):

We had a prayer group over last night, and I had to leave to pick up the girls from AWANA. When we got home, I introduced them to one of the women there, Lydia, and said to the girls, "Lydia lived in Africa for seven years, in Kenya."

My five-year-old IMMEDIATELY started singing [a song from the Sonlight 2 curriculum]: "Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania...."

My eight-year-old said, "Oh, were you in Nairobi?"

Lydia blinked at each of them and said that no, she hadn't been in Nairobi, but then said actually, she'd only been two weeks in Kenya, but that she'd lived in Burkina Faso for seven years, on the other side of Africa.

I'd misunderstood two different missions trips that she'd been on.

My eight-year-old said, "Oh, yes, West Africa."

My five-year-old said, "Is that in Mali?"

My eight-year-old said, "It's right under Mali, Meredith. Mali's where Mansa Musa was from. It's the big one, to the north. Burkina Faso's just a little country."

Lydia continued to blink, and they went wandering off again, but at the end of the meeting, they all pored over a world map we have under vinyl on the dining room table, and were talking about the Sahara Desert, and the different geographical factors contributing to the poverty in Burkina Faso....

It's a good thing I wasn't wearing a shirt with buttons, because that would have popped them off.

I say all the time, it's not that my kids are brilliant, it's just the sheer novelty of what they're learning (and having fun with, so that it sticks), so often, that catches people by surprise.

Last night's reaction by our guest was priceless.
From April 2008:
As we were watching the NCAA Final Four last weekend, one of the commentators began talking about a UCLA player who is from Cameroon. So I asked our 8-year-old son (Core 2) "Where's Cameroon?" Without any hesitation, he replied "North Central Africa!" And then he ran to get our globe so he could show us where it is on a map, too.


So then there was that "Substitutional Atonement" post . . . for a 6-year-old(???!!!????)

Since when do 6-year-olds even think about such concepts?

Well . . .
Core K. Egermeier's Bible Story Book. Reading about "Worship at the Tabernacle" from Leviticus 1-9. Just two sentences, but [my 6-year-old daughter] latched onto them - "After Aaron was made high priest he offered a lamb on the altar of burnt offering as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. He did not put any fire on the altar, but God sent fire to burn up the lamb." Then the tears started - killing cute little lambs.

Oh boy, I was so not ready to discuss substitutional atonement with a sensitive six year old, but here I was.

I did my best, then later put a Facebook status update to wryly comment about needing to pre-read in future, after explaining substitutionary atonement to my six year old.

One of my Facebook friends, who I don't think [has any real personal interest in the Bible], said, "Can you explain it to me?"

I think she was joking, but I did anyway!

It sure was a good way to figure out what I knew and believed.

At first, I couldn't figure out why the shedding of blood was required for the forgiveness of sins, but when my husband got home, we tossed a few verses back and forwards until the meaning became clear. Likewise, as I was writing this up for my friend on Facebook, I was a little concerned about God's reputation (yeah, I know, but I'm being honest here!) - and [my husband] reminded me that [God's] justice was good, just like his mercy.

So here is what I explained to my daughter, and then to my Facebook friends ... and it wouldn't have happened without that particular reading and subsequent discussions!

Atonement is covering over sin (I've also seen it explained as at-one-ment - becoming "at one" with God), and substitution is one taking the place of another (perfect animals, then later Jesus) for our sins.

To start with, the shedding of blood is required to cover over sin.

God is life, and if we turn away from God/life by sinning, what we're looking at is death.

The Bible says that the life of a creature is in its blood, so shedding its blood is shedding its life = death.

Rather than require their own blood to cover over their sins, God allowed the Israelites to sacrifice a perfect animal as their substitute.

[My daughter] was pretty upset about all those cute little lambs being killed - as anyone would be. It'd be a pretty strong deterrent against willful sinning!

It can be difficult to not gloss over the justice of God in favour of his mercy - we all want the kind and loving God without seeing that his justice is good, too. It doesn't take too much imagination to see how degenerate a world without justice would become.

I then explained that when Jesus died on the cross, he was being like the lambs that were sacrificed. He didn't do anything wrong, but he chose to accept all of our sins so we could be friends with God. All of the things she's done wrong in the past, and will do in the future, and all of mine, and all of Daddy's, and all of everyone else's. So instead of having to kill a lamb every time we do something wrong, we can just say sorry to God, and he forgives us because perfect Jesus died instead of us for our sins.

And before she could go too far down *that* track, I told her how wonderful it was that because Jesus didn't do anything wrong, God didn't let him stay dead; he brought him back to life again! So he's still alive, and he's still our friend, and we don't ever have to kill lambs when we do something wrong! Isn't he wonderful? We're so thankful to him for being our special friend.
I read this story--and the one before--and realized, This is what homeschooling (or, certainly, homeschooling with Sonlight) is all about. --It's about spending time with your kids and engaging in significant conversations about significant things . . . whether it has to do with people living on the other side of the world or "how things work." . . . And it has to do, too, with us parents learning!

As "mumtograce," the Australian woman who wrote the last story I quoted, wrote:
I was certainly blessed through this [interaction with my daughter] as, to start with, I knew the statement of "there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood", but didn't know why, so it encouraged me to dig deeper to find out.

And likewise, when I was being concerned about God's reputation among my non-believing friends with requiring blood and sacrifice of cute little lambs, he showed me the goodness of his justice. So I learned a lot through this, too! . . .

I'm glad that my daughter is taking enough in to ask the questions, even if they do really put me on the spot trying to think of an appropriate answer!! And I can tell she's thinking it over, as she asks questions all the time, and mostly to do with the Bible readings.

But now that she's got the "kill a lamb to say sorry and God will forgive you" patois sorted, she can't understand why there are other consequences, eg the Israelites aged 20+ not being permitted to enter the Promised Land after trusting the faithless report of the 10 spies rather than the faith-full report of Caleb and Joshua. So on we go . . . to hard-heartedness, and the many examples of the Israelites grumbling and not trusting God. He knew that even if they said sorry with their mouths and by killing a lamb, they still didn't trust him in their hearts, and they needed to trust him if they were to move into the Promised Land.

She's certainly challenging me and it's great!
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