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Themes in Heritage Studies 1: Family

Children experience significant mental, physical, and social growth during first grade. They develop increased independence, responsibility, and confidence. During this time of growth and formation, first grade teachers have the privilege of helping these students shape the foundations of their worldview.

The importance of how and what we teach first graders is why, when we were developing our new Heritage Studies 1 textbook Family and Community, our Biblical Worldview team attempted to answer the question, “What must a student understand and value in order to comprehend first grade social studies from the perspective of a biblical worldview?” Our Biblical Worldview team identified five key themes that we believe are necessary for first graders to understand. Because of its significant role in a child’s development, the first theme the team identified was family.

As we look at the key ideas we believe are central to a biblical understanding of family, we will look at how family fits into the Christian metanarrative of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. In approaching family this way, we hope that students will see where they fit into God’s story and how they can experience redemption.

God's Design for the Family

The best lessons about family for students begin with God’s creation of family. How can we help students have a proper view of family without understanding why family exists in the first place?

Children need to understand that God created family in the earliest chapters of Genesis and called it good. This good design for family involved one man and one woman as husband and wife, demonstrated in His creation of Adam and Eve. He made them perfectly suited for each other and intended for them to promise a life-long commitment of love to each other before God. When God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply, Adam and Eve’s marriage became the foundation for the family when they had their first children, Cain and Abel.

An important aspect of God’s design for families to teach children is that God gave specific roles to members of the family. God intended for fathers to lead their families with wisdom and love and for mothers to support their husbands with strength and to lead their children with grace. The children’s role in the family was to learn from and obey their parents. Parents extend the responsibility of upbringing and training their children to their kids’ teachers. Therefore, children should also obey and respect their teachers.

The Family's Rebellion against God

How do we explain to children why their family or their friend's family may not look like the family God intended? Many children come from families where the parents are divorced, their father has never spoken a loving word to them, and their mother has gone through multiple relationships. Children must learn that God's perfect design was marred by sin, and that sin has been destroying families ever since. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, their father and creator, and brought sin into the world. Instead of selflessly loving God and each other, they chose to love themselves.

Now, the beautiful roles that God had designed are damaged. Fathers do not lovingly lead their families. Mothers are frustrated by their husbands and do not want to serve their families. Children disobey their parents and resist other authorities. We must show students the depth of the effects of sin, and how all of society hurts when families hurt.

God's Plan to Save Families

Teaching children about how sin has marred God’s good plan must always be followed by God's plan for the redemption of families. God's model for families is taught throughout His word, with many passages in the New Testament teaching about familial roles. And it is through the grace of God that, although challenging, families are able to follow God's plan for the redemption of families. Redemption is not possible without the hope of the gospel. Although we are not perfect, and our families are not perfect, Jesus was. And His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead paid the penalty of sin and enables us to emulate His design for families.

Because of Jesus’s perfection, a father can learn to love and lead his family and work together with his wife to teach their children how to live for God. A wife can learn to be a strong and gracious support for her husband. Children can learn to follow Jesus's model of submission to his Father to be obedient to their parents. Lessons about the redemptions of families must show that God's plan is so much better than mankind's broken family model. And children must learn to see how all of society can benefit from God's plan for families.

How can you help your students internalize these truths in the classroom?

The first step in teaching students how to understand and internalize these themes is to recall and explain them. Ask students review questions like “Who was the first family?” or “What was the first sin?” to gauge their progress. As they move towards understanding, the next goal is for students to evaluate ideas within the themes. You might ask, “Why was it bad that Adam and Eve sinned?” As they learn to evaluate the ideas, guide them towards formulating a biblical understanding and interpretation of the ideas. Help them to ask themselves, “What does God say in His Word about that?”

The final objective of this process is for students to apply the lessons into their real lives. Help them see how what God says a family should be effects their life at home. Ask application questions like, “If God wants families to love each other, how can you show love to your parents and siblings when you go home tonight?” All of our teacher editions contain suggested questions that guide your discussions with your students as they move from recalling to internalizing these concepts. In our student edition of Heritage Studies 1, there are also questions throughout the lessons for them to consider and even work through with their parents at home. Helping students move through this process of internalizing a biblical worldview at a young age will set an invaluable pattern for the rest of their lives.

Outside of the designated Heritage Studies unit on family, you may not have many opportunities for formal lessons about God’s plan for families with your students. But teachable moments happen daily, where you can help your students understand how their lives and their struggles fit into God’s story. Help them to see how good it is that God loved them enough to create families and to bring them into His own family forever.

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Category: General, Philosophy