The Integration of Bible Verses in Academic Curriculum Resources: Is This Necessary?
Our business sells both Christian curriculum and non-religious curriculum. Over the years, we have represented several suppliers and a few distributors; some are Christian companies or ministries, some are secular. We also write and publish some curriculum under the imprint of “Peppermint Stick Learning Company Inc.”. As evangelical Christians, lesson material that we publish does have a Biblical perspective on specific issues if/when these come up within the topics (e.g. creation/evolution, ethics, environmental care, morality). However, we are different than most “Christian curriculum companies” in that most of the curriculum we write and publish does NOT integrate narratives about a Christian worldview or Bible verses into the main lesson on a regular basis. Generally, most resources are quite suitable for both Christian and non-Christian teachers to use at home or in private or public classrooms.
Over many years, I have browsed through a variety of supplier catalogues, school descriptions, and talked with a number of other home school moms. I read the “whys” and “how that is accomplished” of teaching a Biblical worldview to students. As a Christian, I personally agree with a fair amount of it, but not everything.
One idea that presents itself is that a Christian education (i.e. at home or in a private school) is always better than attending a public education, in the sense of if such is possible, then Christian parents should choose that over public schooling. This idea is basically dealt with in another article posted on our website called “Home Schooling: A Biblical Mandate?”
Another idea is that to have an education that will uphold a Christian or Biblical worldview, you must integrate Bible learning into all subject areas, in a consistent manner, in daily practice. Those who promote this idea often also indicate that IF the Bible is not integrated into all subjects, then the education is not upholding a Christian or Biblical worldview. Also, their arguments can focus on a point of saying that Christians who choose to have a non-integrated approach to school and work are wrong because they appear to be leaving God out of their daily life and separating faith on the weekend from work during the week. This conclusion results in some Christian parents feeling under pressure to “integrate” or else ruin the likelihood of their children growing up understanding a Biblical worldview. So I ask, “Is the integration of Bible content throughout school subject lessons necessary to teach from a Christian perspective?”
Since this issue reflects on our educational philosophy and we have received questions about it, I will attempt to give an explanation for why we do not teach usually a Biblical worldview by the same methods as many other publishers do if they are coming from a similar solid Biblical doctrinal belief as ourselves. (Click on these links to view our Statement of Faith and educational philosophy.)
This article deals with a concept promoted by the Christian Education movement in general. First of all, it needs to be said that there ARE indeed Christian schools, Christian teachers, and Christian curriculum publishers who have been a real blessing to so many families and individuals in their communities by providing an alternative option and good education for their students. It is a good choice for many families. I too, have appreciated some of the material produced for Christian schools by various publishers; there are some excellent and gifted writers and researchers. It is sometimes a better choice to attend a Christian school in comparison to home schooling or public schooling. It can even be better choice for some home schooling families to use a Bible-integrated curriculum and it ideally should be their freedom to choose that. But that is about a choice of preference of style, not about from which academic education (integrated versus “not-as-integrated”) do children have a greater “chance” of graduating with Christian beliefs. (Remember, salvation isn’t a result of statistics. And also Romans chapter 3.)
Secondly, I will state that it IS extremely important for real, true Christians to live out their faith in their everyday life. The world has too many complacent Christians or ones ashamed to live for the Lord in their school, workplace, church, and community. The apostle Paul states in Romans 1:16 that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. You cannot split your life into giving God your time for an hour on Sundays but then living with a worldly lifestyle for the rest of the week and think that God would be pleased with this arrangement. (Remember what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:24.) The Bible gives us direction as to standing up for our faith and speaking the truth with love. God’s wisdom is found in His Word (the Bible) and it is far more important to get that kind of wisdom than to be the smartest kid (or adult) in academic education. And whether you are the “smartest kid” or struggle with learning academics or somewhere in-between, Christians are not to compromise their beliefs when it comes to things that the Scriptures teach us about.
Yet, here are my reasons for why I purposely do not integrate Bible lessons into all school subjects of the curriculum that I write and sell:
A Christian Testimony in the Workplace: We do uphold the truth of the Bible, even when we don’t state this for every lesson. But math drills, phonetic sounds, and other school-related material have the SAME content and skills to learn, regardless of your religious background. We can be a Christian testimony in the educational field that simply needs good options to help them teach children effectively. Not all home schoolers are “Christian” – there is a growing number of non-Christian families deciding to home school. And there are teachers in public schools that can use more curriculum ideas to help improve literacy and other life skills.
Here is my “grocery-store” model of living for God in my work: If I owned a grocery store, I would want to offer good things to my entire community, regardless of whether or not they shared my Christian faith. I would want my attitudes and actions to reflect Christ-likeness. I would try to choose only good things to resell, not rotten food and not rotten magazines. I could provide good things and be an influential Christian in the workplace without selling products with Bible verses on them. As opportunity comes, I could share with them my testimony, answers from the Word of God, and pray for them. Now back to my real life. On purpose, I wanted our curriculum to reach a wider audience than just Christian teachers/parents. I think we can offer anyone many good things for their appetite for learning!
The Original Purpose of the Bible: Most of the lessons for Canadian history, for example, do not mention the Bible since teaching Canadian history is not the purpose of the Bible. We believe that the Bible is historically and scientifically accurate but, since the Bible’s purpose was not to teach everything about science or history, there are no verses that need to be taught along with simple machines, math equations, etc. It isn’t necessary to prove simple machines exist in history by finding, in a concordance, a verse that mentions the word “wheels”, even if it could be an interesting bit of trivia. It isn’t that we believe in separating faith from the rest of life but we do want to highlight the Bible’s original purpose and so, except in matters on ethics, origins, or life choice issues or other occasional mention, Bible-related material is considered supplementary to most lessons for parents who wish to add it as an “extra” for interest’s sake. And we are assuming that Christian families are already taking the time to read the Bible daily in their home outside of “school hours” to teach about the original purpose of the Bible, which is to know the God Who has revealed Himself to people in its pages. We are further assuming that Christian parents are guiding children to put into practice what they are learning from the Bible in situations they face – in their responses (actions, words, attitudes).
The Original Meaning of the Bible: We do not want to misuse the Holy Scripture by trying to stretch a verse out of its original intended context just in order to fit the lesson theme on the page. Examples you may have seen before of stretching: a topic of apples as a fruit and the verse saying that people are the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8). Have you ever seen thank you cards that quote “You are blessed of the LORD, for you have shown this kindness…” Read the rest of the verse that isn’t written in the card in 2 Samuel 2:5 to find out that it has nothing to do with hospitality originally. (The card company failed to quote that verse in context.) Plus, I did not want to subtlety teach my children that it is a wise thing to just find a verse that matches human ideas. (Too many popular books on the market do that.) We are told to handle and present the Word of God correctly and we want to be careful to do this.
It has been said by past Bible teachers that a good principle is to generally “let the text [of the Scripture] introduce the topic instead of the topic introducing the text.” We think this is a great way to model how to learn from the Bible! This is not to say that we never take a topic and find Bible verses for it – for sure, we DO and will do this too. But our emphasis is not to add a verse to a lesson just for the sake of trying to “find something” which might fit sort of with a specific topic in the Bible. Instead, we believe it is the parents’ task, not a book publisher/author, to primarily disciple children from the Bible (e.g. in family devotions and throughout daily life). Curriculum should remain a tool in the hands of parents, not a scripted way of parenting or teaching something.
The Relevance of the Bible to Academics: We did not feel it was necessary to include the Bible lessons into most school lessons. We want it to be actually meaningful to a student if a Scripture verse is included.
I am personally concerned if an educational philosophy ignores an acknowledgment of earthly benefit for future work skills and a balanced view of time management – that there is a time for various activities which is not the time for other activities (Ecclesiastes 3).
As a Christian, I am also concerned when I see Bible verses on the bottom of each math page or a science lesson that teaches more about theology while missing the emphasis on the scientific concept or skill that the lesson should be teaching at that time. It is troubling when graduates from Christian homeschooling have not grasped sufficient work-related academic skills even though they know a lot of philosophical words and even Bible knowledge. We’d like to promote a direction in Christian homeschooling which produces graduates with a greater balance of academic skills and Biblical understanding.
The Bible teaches me that there is a time for everything and I simply don’t believe that the proper time to read Bible verses about 12 disciples plus 12 tribes equals 24 people or about David or Moses counting men has to be in with me teaching my child how to do math – the proper time to read those Bible verses instead should be in the context of the stories around those verses when the child is not trying to do math and therefore can actually understand the situations clearly (as opposed to muddling it into math). There is a time for math and science and a time for Bible reading just like there is a time for doing dishes, taking out the trash, fixing a car, and scrubbing laundry. We do not need to feel guilty as Christians if we work at things during the day that do not have Bible verses right in front of us or in our earphones. God’s children in the Bible didn’t apply the idea of honouring God in such a way and neither should we feel the need to do so today. Godly people in the Bible (and in history) were very practical as well as attentive Who God is at the same time without the practice of having Bible verses integrated into their work or studies.
Curriculum is not the Saviour and we really shouldn’t idolize it to the point that it becomes “the cause behind the effect” of choosing to serve the Lord. Countless godly people, including pastors and missionaries, were actually educated with secular curriculum and not raised with a Bible-integrated academic curriculum yet still they learned the Biblical worldview adequately. We need to remember that curriculum is not the reason people turn away from God or turn towards Him. The method of education does not insure ANYONE salvation; a Christian education does not make a Christian student.
This concern has been written here because too often Christian homeschoolers have been strongly influenced to think that if everything isn’t mixed and integrated then it is an ungodly education and they will cause their children to turn away from God and His Word. This is sometimes debated as “Christian dualism” in the philosophies of a number of leaders in the Christian education field and it can sound so good and worthy. Yet, when we think about it, to apply the heresy of dualism to somehow judge educational curriculum to this extent is never seen in the Bible, not even in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
Take another example – that of fashion. As Christians, we want to have God as the Lord of our lives in everyday life, not just on Sunday or for daily Bible time. Our toddler has one T-shirt with a Bible verse on it (Psalm 23:1 with a picture of a sheep and a staff – very cute) – but we just have one shirt is “integrated” with our faith – the rest of the clothing items for our children have no Bible verses on them. But do our family’s choices on every day fashion honour God or are we somehow considered dualists because there are no Bible verses on our clothes most days? The explanation is that we wear clothing that is modest and cares for our bodies appropriately for our activities and that is how we honour God with our choice of clothing. So very similarly, we tend to not integrate the Scripture into our academic lessons but we do cultivate attitudes that honour God whether we are dusting a shelf or doing a math page and we don’t need the written words in front of us in order to do so.
What specifically does this look like for Peppermint Stick Learning Company Inc. for our core curriculum resources?
- PSLC Science books uphold the Biblical perspective on “origins”, ethics, and life choices when these topics are taught, however, Bible learning is not “integrated” into most lessons. Most of the Bible-based material that go along with a particular topic is located in a supplemental appendix at the end of the curriculum pages for those who wish to use it.
- PSLC Social Studies, Canadian History, and Canadian/World Geography core curriculum have a small portion of the main pages that include Bible-based material, such as pioneer churches, world missions, ice age timeframe that fits with the Biblical truth of the Flood that would have also covered North America.
- PSLC Math, Phonics, Creative Writing, Grammar, Art Lessons, and Spelling have no or very minimal reference to Scripture. Grammar for example, has a page that includes teaching about capitalizing God’s name. Phonics emphasizes the delight of real life in Canada (e.g. animals, tools, vehicles, etc.) and eliminates fairy-tale characters, in accordance with our philosophy of education. (Occasionally, Reading Sticks may have a reference to Christmas carols or other Christian literature and it does have a few lessons on definitions and worldview issues with fairy-tales, etc.. In general, our reading program is “literature-independent” which means that YOU, the customer, chooses which literature to use with your child.) Creative Writing resources may have an occasional journal topic that relates to a Bible story but most assignments do not contain Christian topics. The Let Me Read Steps also have no or minimal reference to Scripture in the main lessons although the supplemental pages at the end of a book may include some Christian content.
- Penmanship: Printing Lessons for Primaries and Handwriting Lessons have weekly Bible verses or stories as a suggested part of the lesson. (This is in keeping with the historical fact that young children learned to how to write letters in Bible times by copying Scripture sometimes so I do feel that in this subject area, there is a relevance to doing the same.) Beginner Printing and Aaron’s Story do not have this as a feature though.
- The program that we sell for French (as a Second Language) have an evangelical Christian missionary emphasis. Like penmanship, French is a subject area where having the Bible integrated throughout the units of study holds relevance to applying what one studies to real future life since learning another language opens doors for opportunities to be a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Separation versus Integration: Is it a “Sin” to Organize School Subjects by Separating Them?
To those who would accuse us as dualists because we separate subjects and we separate Bible study from things like math study, please understand that Christians who like to separate things and organize them in such a way to learn them this way are not necessarily “dualists”. We actually disagree with dualism in theology. We agree with you who believe that God is personal, all-powerful, sovereign, etc.! Think a reasonable combination that includes BOTH ideas, in contrast to one versus another: Honouring God in all you do and striving for excellence and remembering He is present with us always, AND that the sacred and what is not sacred are not to be all the same muddled together in every sense! Even the word “sacred” or “holy” means that it is set aside in comparison to being “the same”. There is a difference between sacred and everything else – Psalm 138:2b. The Bible is a very unique Book – set apart as special/sacred – and not just a piece of favourite literature. Having a separation of natural world things and God’s Name and His Word is a doctrinal truth AND so is glorifying God in all you do! BOTH are true! Some Christian parents like us simply prefer to organize our academic subjects in a way that reflects the setting aside a time for Bible study rather than integrating it into each school lesson and this is definitely fine to do!
It is one thing to desire to use a curriculum that integrates Bible verses – as a personal preference. I think that is great and gives you the freedom to choose something that you like. But it is another thing to make the judgment call to say that it is less godly or even an ungodly or damaging curriculum based solely because a resource has no Bible verses or Christian character in it. Folks, it is fine to read “Sally, Dick, and Jane” readers and it is fine to use curriculum that uses secular or a “life-on-earth” emphasis. “Setting one’s affection on things above” is not the same as “never having a focused study to learn about things on earth”.
We think that focused time helps lessons to “stick” for longer. For science curriculum, I wanted the focus to be on science skills and concepts, not language arts, not history, nor even Bible stories. When a child can focus on one thing at a time, it “sticks” better according to our experiences as students and as parents. If I want to teach a child how to do a chore such as drying dishes, it is easier to begin with only drying dishes. Too many other things to think about might cause some broken glass. Young children and even some adults have more difficulty learning something if things are integrated. Thus, we prefer to separate school subjects with one another and even to separate each subject area into small chunks of unit studies. This is one of PSLC’s key characteristics for our educational style/approach.
We think that it is best for Christian parents to teach the Bible on its own as part of family devotions, adding to their understanding of Who God is and His plan, and applying principles learned to the rest of their day. (That, we feel, is following the principle of Deuteronomy 6 and other often-quoted Bible verses for parenting.)
The ongoing pressure is strong at times – to make Christian parents feel guilty if they don’t teach academics (or sometimes even life skills) in “such and such” a manner.
There continues to be those who claim that Christian parents really NEED “Christian curriculum” to teach their children about God. No, I say, they do not. For books/media/programs, all we need is the Bible for parenting in a godly manner.
Sure, good curriculum which has a good interpretation and application of what God’s Word teaches CAN be used as a good, “go-alongside” tool. BUT curriculum is not necessary at all to teach the Bible. God’s Word is sufficient in itself.
Actually, the Bible is sufficient in itself for everything pertaining to life and godliness. It alone is sufficient for Christian parenting issues. We don’t “need” other good books to help us be a godly Christian parent. We can use them if we want, but we don’t “need” them.
Our joy in homeschooling as a Christian parent is not sourced in using a “Christian curriculum” program. Our joy is found in a relationship with Christ and obedience to Him!
If you are a Christian parent who neglects to use “Christian curriculum” but who does NOT neglect to use the Bible in Spirit-led family life, you do not need to worry or get distracted with the kind of marketing or advice trying to tell you that the “lack of” such is “the reason why” you’re facing challenges at times in raising your kids. (It isn’t the reason. Challenges will continue to come and go because that is real life and you have living, individual, young people with God-designed character and a human nature and you’re like that too! Aim to improve “things “school” with “tools” which help your family in a practical way with learning. And prayerfully disciple your children spiritually through the Word of God.)
Curriculum should not take over the role of a Christian parent. Nor should it be fully leaned on to teach a Biblical worldview. Parents are called by God to teach their own children. An author of curriculum remains an author with ideas, not a substitute parent. Parents need to take up the role of parenting.
Bottom-line for this point: If you are a Christian parent who is trying to figure out how you can homeschool your children, you have the freedom to choose! Academic subjects can be taught separately without guilt or integrated with discernment (to not stretch Scripture and to not ignore life-on-earth skills)! It truly is up to you and your personal preference.
But what about teaching a Biblical Worldview? What about “the other publishers” who add the Bible verses in with each lesson in order to reinforce the idea that God is to be part of our everyday life?
Well, we’d agree with their GOAL of what they want children to understand. But at the same time, Peppermint Stick Learning Company Inc. does not use the same method and approach of HOW to teach this worldview.
For us, a Biblical worldview taught in a Christian education environment needs to be no more than lessons taught in a Bible-focused time period (e.g. family devotions, Sunday School, Christian School Bible courses), applied with the attitudes and actions/choices modelled by a Christian teachers/parents, and someone (such as a parent or other godly teacher) to teach issues that are addressed in the Bible (e.g. ethics). That last part CAN be effectively taught whenever the topic arises in an academic subject at school or at home rather than integrating it alongside every topic.
It is a good idea to prepare children for how to respectfully listen and respectfully respond to opposing worldviews. This has been done well by parents who send their children to a secular school so it need not be a part of academic class time. Parents should be the ones primarily responsible for teaching moral values to their own children.
Homeschooling does provide more flexible time in which to tackle tough issues or simply spend together as a family worshipping God.
And now, perhaps you understand why teaching a Biblical Worldview has more to do with Christian parenting, regardless of how, where, or by whom, your children learn their academic subjects or practical skills for a career…which leads us into that other article: Homeschooling: Is It a Biblical Mandate?
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