Thursday, April 11, 2013

Volume 1: Bible Lessons

Miss Mason has some wonderful advice regarding Bible lessons in this short section. This is the Bible as a school subject, which is, of course, different from its use in family reading, devotions, or feast preparation. 

First, Children enjoy the Bible, in which Charlotte warns us against watered down versions of Holy Scripture. "We are probably quite incapable of measuring the religious receptivity of children," and we should cultivate in them an attitude of thought and feeling which will allow that receptivity to be put to work. 

Next, children should know the Bible Text, in which we learn what kind of Bible reading to provide. Miss Mason advocates strongly for children receiving a broad swath of Bible knowledge. "Children between the ages of six and nine should get a considerable knowledge of the Bible text. By nine they should have read the simple (and suitable) narrative portions of the Old Testament, and, say, two of the gospels." Knowing Charlotte as we do,  we know the children should be receiving the text in measured doses, narrating it, truly learning it. This is not a run-through checklist of "read this story and then this parable." As to which translation to use, Miss Mason calls it a mistake to use a paraphrased version of holy scripture, advocating for "Bible English," which I assume means the KJV. In our family, we have several scholarly versions at hand, but use the Douay-Rheims as our standard. 

Essential and Accidental Truth, in which Miss Mason lays to rest our worries about how to explain literal and figurative Truth. "They shall not be disturbed by questions of authenticity in their Bible reading any more than in their reading of English history. Let them hear the story of the Garden of Eden, for example, as it stands; just so, we might even let them have the story of the man who went fishing and found a goodly pearl; and this, because the thing that matters in both stories is the essential truths they embody, and not the mere accidents of time and place." This is a practical and honest way to present Scripture to a child. It is all Truth. We can confidently answer their questions and present any historical or archaeological evidence, as appropriate, never worrying about whether doing so will taint their view of God's word. "The more we can help them in this way, the more vivid and real will Bible teaching become to them...We need not be at the pains to discriminate, in teaching children Bible narratives, between essential and accidental truth––the truth which interprets our own lives, and that which concerns only the time, place, and circumstances proper to the narrative. The children themselves will discern and keep fast hold of the essential, while the merely accidental slips from their memory as from ours." Miss Mason finishes this section with a reminder to not make the Bible unsavory to children with undue "rubbing in," which could lead to boredom. This, again, is Bible as educative subject, not personal or family devotion. 

Next, we consider Method of Bible Lessons, in which we receive a simple, doable plan for presenting the text to our children. First, the chosen section (a short one, containing an episode, if possible), is read reverently by Mama, and then the children narrate back, in language as near as possible to the Bible's. Then, we can talk over what has been read, bringing in commentary, if desired, being careful not to give too much personal application. Allow their minds to chew on the ideas.

And finally, Picture Illustrations and Bible Recitations, in which we wrap up with a few more words of wisdom about studying the Bible with children. First, if a picture version is chosen, Miss Mason recommends the illustrations be well done, with a reverent feeling. Cartoon-ish picture Bibles will not do. She also recommends careful care of the book itself.  "A tattered Bible is not a wholesome sight for children." If children are being taught a portion of text for recitation, they should learn a small part each day, and the next recite back what they know so far. In this way, they will not be taxed by trying to tackle a very long passage. This memorization should begin quite young, at age 6 or 7.

In closing, I want to call your attention to Miss Mason's thoughts on why we are taking such care to teach our children about God. I think she allows us to take a deep breath here...if they are presented with salvation history, they will pick up on the enthusiasm for God and right, and will choose their side, without undue efforts on our part. 

"But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion. By degrees, they will see that the world is a stage whereon the goodness of God is continually striving with the wilfulness of man; that some heroic men take sides with God; and that others, foolish and headstrong, oppose themselves to Him. The fire of enthusiasm will kindle in their breast, and the children, too, will take their side, without much exhortation, or any thought or talk of spiritual experience."

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