Monday, May 15, 2017

A Christian's Approach to Teaching Literature


I'm going to warn you from the get-go. I plan to weave more than one theme into this blog post. To set the record straight, I have been the wife/mom/school teacher in our home for a lot of years - married for 30, mom for 28, and teacher for 23. Life hasn't always been that good to our family but God has. It is with the experience of those ups and downs that I want to approach the subjects of literature and the whole media challenge that Christian homeschooling families face today.

Through the early years, I wanted to impart Christian values straight from the Bible to my children. We did not watch any TV for many years. I ordered explicitly Christian curriculum and used that for the elementary grades. As the kids approached the high school years, I rethought a little of that, sprinkling in a bit of the classics, but still keeping to the books and stories that most conservative Christians would approve.

The three oldest boys graduated and went on to college. It was then that the world hit them full force. College professors didn't necessarily put only Christian titles on their curriculum lists. In fact, since the boys attended secular schools (we couldn't afford Christian colleges), those Christian titles didn't amount to much in the eyes of the instructors. The boys got a crash course in secular worldview, and wow, was it ever a crash.

As for my younger two, they ended up with a different approach to learning literature - the classics from Treasure Island to Huckleberry Finn to Jane Eyre. By the way, these classic pieces have roots in Christianity, especially Jane Eyre. We have learned about the authors and their approaches to writing. Once you understand where the writers are coming from, you can understand a little better the literature itself.

Martin Cochran has said, "History is best at telling us what did happen, while literature is best at telling us what should happen." In classical literature, we find that life is not always perfect. In fact, it is a hard road. Those who pursue their own ways find ruin, as in The Great Gatsby. Always, being faithful to God when it is hard leads to great reward, as in Jane Eyre, granted that reward might be later in Heaven rather than the here and now.

Do I still believe in Christian literature? You bet. It can strengthen us and provide safe parameters for our reading pleasure. However, I think that to dismiss some of the great classics for an exclusively Christian curriculum might be doing our homeschooled children a disservice. Careful blending of the two, as they reach the high school years, helps them to solidify their own values and worldviews. Writing exercises drawn from the literature helps them to express those worldviews in an ever increasing hostile world.

Now, as for other types of media, I believe we should strongly lean toward faith based forms. I have watched some of the movies, based upon classic works, and have been sorely disappointed. Most modern adaptations of the classics are nothing like the original books. The language alone is enough to shock a Christian.

If we are Christians and say that we are, we need to be careful what we set before our children. Reading a classic tale that is not overtly Christian is not necessarily a bad thing - we can learn what "history should be" from them. However, setting something that is overtly anti-Christian really is a bad thing. We should be outraged when these sorts of movies and television shows are produced and refuse to watch them.

There are enough faith based, good films out there. Walden Media, Pure Flix, Fox Faith, and several other companies are working to making media more family friendly. The movies and shows they put out are quality stuff. I encourage you to seek them out. I borrowed some DVDs from our local library that were put out by Pure Flix. I love their variety of Christian movies and the kind of programming they have because I never have to worry about compromising my values. The home should be a place where Christ is honored.

So, to bring it all together, what I am trying to relate is that we moms are the keepers of the home. We can pump hostile values into our homes or we can allow Godly ones. Reading secular classical literature is not the same as reading that which purposely undermines our faith and values. Watching faith based programming for entertainment is a great way to learn those little life lessons in ways that our children (and we) enjoy.

By the way, Pure Flix is currently offering a free 4-week trial. Visit them today to learn more.
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