On weekends, two or three different trucks cruise slowly through our neighborhood with music blasting loud enough to be heard for blocks. Inevitably, as soon as my little ones are old enough to know what the music means, they want to go out and get some ice cream.
“No” is always the answer in our family.
“Ice cream trucks are the most expensive place to buy ice cream.”
One day, my four-year-old daughter asked, “Why don’t they just give it to the children?”
She didn’t realize that that question would get her a free civics lecture instead of free ice cream!
Why nothing is ever really “free” (and other principles of civics) may seem obvious to us as adults. But a recent study shows that even many high school graduates know little about civics. So as Christian parents, we must take seriously our God-given responsibility to train our children to participate skillfully in our communities. Homeschooling allows us the opportunity to teach them to do this in the fear of the Lord.
Our children need to know where communities came from. Next they’re ready to learn what communities are and how they allow their members to specialize and rule efficiently. Children need a basic understanding of civics so they can answer questions such as:
- What are the differences between urban, suburban, and rural communities?
- What are needs and wants?
- Who are consumers, producers, and service providers?
- What are local governments, and how do they get money?
- How does voting work?
- What role does income play in families and communities?
It’s important for children to learn early on about these facets of our communities so they don’t think that something is free or easy to provide. They need to understand that God’s Creation Mandate gives humanity a bent towards community but that some communities are formed based on harmful values such as violence or hedonism. Yet people in communities should be working together meeting each other’s needs so they can serve God.
Covering History + Civics
One of the main goals of history education is healthy civic engagement, and history is the most natural place to cover these topics with your children. I’ve been thrilled with how BJU Press Heritage Studies curriculum introduces civics concepts on the first-grade level and spirals back to those concepts in each grade until twelfth grade, when an entire year is devoted to American government and economics. Textbook writers at BJU Press have carefully created plans for their coverage of civics so there aren’t any gaps in my children’s understanding. History and civics are taught together from a biblical worldview so that children can make connections to their past and to their current participation in the community.
When my daughter asked about why ice cream isn’t free, I had the opportunity to teach her a civics lesson. But if I relied solely on spontaneous moments to teach my children critical life skills, I might leave critical gaps in their knowledge. I also want to be careful to teach them with the Bible as the central authority. That’s why I chose a curriculum that teaches civics skills alongside history.
Take a “Look Inside the Book” at Heritage Studies 1 to see how civics and history are taught together.