Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Religion, History and Education


Is there a God?

I remember when I was a young teenager and I started to question religion.  Was the LDS church real,  were the scriptures true,  did God even exist?  As young as I was at the time I must have been somewhat analytical.  I remember thinking that if I was going to question one thing,  I might as well question the very foundation of religion, did God exist, and get it all over with.

I started my questioning with going to my Dad.  I told him of my doubts and questions, I was full of fear of what I would learn or discover from asking these questions. I was afraid that my whole world would be turned upside down.  My dad was confident and calm.  He told me that he too asked these questions, that he received an answer that the LDS church was true and he felt confident that if I was diligent in my search for truth that I would learn the LDS church was true.  Just as he had learned the same thing.  Whew... It seemed as though he knew the perfect thing to say at the right time.

I boldly jumped into reading about Zen Buddhism.  Zen was getting allot of press and I was pretty sure I would find the answers I was looking for there.  Where else does one look for answers on Zen but Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy?  It was totally over my early teen mind, I was confused, and any deeper religious meanings were lost on me.

I started to ask myself, what would the world be like if there was no God?  Now that question did send me into a tail spin.  I swam around in the muck of trying to imagine such things for a while.  One thing I knew for sure was I did not like the idea of there being no God.  But that was not good enough, I needed something more tangible, some sort of evidence, or logic in order to believe there was a God... Or at least I thought I did.

Thankfully I was learning about ancient history at this time in school.    It fascinated me, I loved learning what ancient cultures were like.  I started to realise a pattern.  Every ancient culture we learned about believed in the existence of a God or Gods.  In fact I could not find any society that ever existed where the culture of people did not have some sort of belief in a Deity.  I concluded that the belief in God or Gods is ingrained in us, something we know, lets say instinctively.  From this first discovery of truth I slowly built back up my foundation on religion. I progressed to is there one God or multiple Gods, was Jesus a God or just a good preacher, was Joseph Smith a prophet or a liar and was the LDS Church true.  Just as my dad predicted, I found myself happily and securely back to where I began,  born LDS, raised LDS, and now... shall I say, newly converted LDS.

What history can we learn from myths and legends?

Some time later my family took a vacation to the Grand Canyon.  I had money to spend and the gift shop was full of wonderful things to buy.  I browsed for a long time and found myself leaning towards the beautiful books.  I finally decided on a book set "Keepers of the Earth" and "Keepers of the Animals"  these books were full of indian legends.  My family was fostering an indian boy at the time and I thought I would enjoy reading the stories to him and teaching him what I learned.

I loved reading the interesting stories.  I giggled at the story of the earth resting on the back of a turtle.  I decided that in many ways the indian legends were not much different from the Greek Mythology, They both explained the natural world with supernatural stories.  

My heart stopped when I turned to a drawing of a young man finding a sacred record buried in the ground.  I read on with fervor.  What I was reading was a story not unlike the story of Joseph Smith.  It was amazing to me to imagine how the truth of Joseph Smiths story was now showing up in fragments in this old legend. Could it be that some of these other legends would have more remnants of  truth?  I eagerly read through the all stories looking for anything that would fit the scripture stories I knew.  I found a story that resembled Jesus Christ, and one that had fragments of the Bibles version of creation.  I think I found other looser related stories but it has been many years.

I started to wonder what could be learned form studying other myths and legends.  I had developed a theory. I theorised that if I studied ancient myths and legends that I would find many more references to the stories found in scripture.  I started to imagine, what I felt would be the best way to learn and teach history.  When I closed my eyes I saw a room surrounded with one grand time line on the walls.  I imagined in the middle of that room a large table with a map of the world on it.  Also around the walls of that room were low bookshelves with books of legends.  I figured with these tools one could read legend after legend and start to see patterns in how they lined up in time and location.  I decided this was how I wanted to teach my children history.

Can history be the backbone to all education?


Not only did I totally forget this wonderful ideal of education I had came up with but I also forgot that my patriarchal blessing encouraged me to be a teacher, and to teach my children.  Years later through God's direction I found myself homeschooling, and loving it. But I could never stick to one curriculum for very long.  I was just too creative.  I would research the best curriculum, use it eagerly for one month, make tweaks and changes to it for another month and by the third month I was off creating my own curriculum that was inspired but the new ideas I found in the original curriculum.  I was eagerly enjoying myself, but I was getting leery of spending money on expensive books that I would eventually put down and not use.

Finally one day I decided that instead of patching together others curriculum's I needed to just admit that I wanted something that was not available, and start creating my own curriculum from scratch, they way I wanted it.  That is when I started to piece together all the elements of what I felt would be the perfect curriculum. A pattern started to emerge, I could see the theme of the importance of history running through out all my ideas. I started to ask myself "could all subjects be taught on the back bone of history."  I  remembered that Oliver Demille recommended just that thing for learning math.  Math history naturally progressed from simple concepts to more complex concepts as the concepts build on each other.  I took that to be confirmation that you could in fact teach all subjects on the backbone of history.

Imagine my delight as one day I ran across my old books "Keepers of the Animals" and "Keepers of the Earth".  These books brought back a flood of memories and my grand early teenage plans on how to teach history to my children.  I took this as confirmation that I was on the right path.

Creating a curriculum takes at least twice as long as it does to teach it.  It was worth it for me though because suddenly I was eagerly studying history and the bible so that I could know what to teach and how to teach it.   Soon life caught up to me though, and I had my baby.  I was glad to be teaching homeschool still but had no time for creating curriculum's.  Now that I had refined my expectations of a curriculum I started to discover that there were many wonderful resources that I could piece together to help teach history as the back bone to all learning.  

Science, writing, math, religion, government, ethics, philosophy, natural science and many others all are recurring themes in history and can be laced together to the backbone of history, one big History Academy.  Maybe someday I will realise my ideal of creating a marketable history curriculum.  Today I am realising my ideal of teaching history as a backbone to education through piecing together many wonderful resources.  Maybe, God willing, I will be able to report on the resources I am using and how it is all cumming together.  In the meantime I am grateful for all that I am learning, and that I have the opportunity to share it with my children.

Jeanine
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