I started teaching my twins the alphabet when they turned two. Yes, I know that is a bit extreme. But, truth be told, I was a little bored with “non-productive” play time and wanted to do something even marginally goal-oriented with them. By the time they were two and a half, they both knew all their letters. (I’m both embarrassed and proud to say that my daughter could also name every state on the map at that age.) I have since slowed way down with the learning curve, but still spend a couple of afternoons per week teaching them “early preschool” lessons (they are now three).
I recently started a book for them with various alphabet exercises in it. On each page, a letter is shown in the context of several other letters and the child is supposed to circle all the correct upper and lower case instances of it – for example, circle the “O”s in this picture:
Despite having known his individual letters for almost a year, my son was absolutely confused by the page above. He simply could not distinguish the Cs from the Os. Thinking something was horribly wrong, I grabbed the “C” letter magnet we have and asked him what it was. “C,” he said, no problem. Then I showed him an “O” letter magnet; “O,” he said, again no problem. But presented with a bunch of Cs and Os together for the first time, he could no longer distinguish between them.
This little preschool exercise gave me pause to think about the bigger truth that context makes all the difference in a person’s understanding of a subject.
As an intentional Christian mom, I am striving to provide my children with the strongest (Christian) faith foundation possible before they leave my home someday. I think about ways to develop their prayer life, how to teach them what the Bible is and isn’t, what to tell them about God’s nature, the importance of going to church, and the list goes on.
But with all of these things, my mindset is on teaching them an individual, isolated “C,” in this case representing Christianity. If they leave home someday only understanding this “C” by itself, however, they could easily be led astray by the “O”s of the world – belief systems that look similar to Christianity but in reality are vastly different.
The difference between C and O is the difference between words that mean something and words that don’t: cake versus oake; call versus oall; cradle versus oradle. That small little curve that converts C to O leads to vast changes in meaning. “Small” differences between belief systems also lead to vast changes in meaning.
Take this article with an atheist’s version of the Ten Commandments as an example (a friend happened to send this to me today). In format, it’s like the Bible’s Ten Commandments. At a cursory level, the topics are similar to the Bible’s Ten Commandments. But the Ten Commandments minus God are completely devoid of their original meaning and purpose. The seemingly “small” change of removing God references represents a completely different (atheistic) worldview.
The world today would like everyone to believe that all religions are “basically” the same and that atheists believe in many of the same values, just not the same God. If our children are to eventually navigate this highly inaccurate view, they need to understand precisely what other major religions believe and precisely how those beliefs differ with Christian beliefs (here is a giant chart as one example of types of comparison points). In other words, as Christian parents, our job description needs to be more than teaching “C” … we need to be prepared to teach “C” in the context of “O”s. This is something I’m not necessarily prepared for yet myself, but today I realize more than ever how important gaining that better understanding and sharing it with my kids will be. In light of this, you can look forward to some coming posts with key points for teaching your kids the differences between major religions!
How have you talked to your kids about other religions? Have you taken them to other churches? What was your experience?