I really enjoyed Aimee Byrd's article regarding nurturing rich women's initiatives. This is something I think about quite often, as I teach a women's study.
I've taught children, teenagers, and women. I've often wondered how we can encourage women to think deeply. Does it start with young mothers? young adult women? children? As I reflected back on my years homeschooling, during which time we also worked in youth ministry, I could not help but think about the trivium.
Yes, the trivium. When we homeschooled, we followed a classical homeschool model, and I found these stages helpful in teaching not only academic material, but spiritual material.
The first stage is the grammar stage, grades 1-4. A child learns facts; number facts, language facts, science facts; bible facts. It's a time for filling up their heads with facts.
The next stage, grades 5-8, is the dialectic or logic, stage. This is when we apply the facts to reasoning. This is when we start to teach them the sigificance of the facts they're learning.
The final stage is the rhetoric stage, where a student learns to communicate what he knows about those facts.
This passage says it much better than I could:
In the grammar stage children learned facts; in the dialectic stage children began to understand those facts, and in the rhetoric stage children learn to express what they now understand in the most compelling manner possible. This stage roughly coincides with high school. Cognitively speaking, this stage is where abstract thought reaches its zenith. In this stage, the unknown can be explored because the known is understood; the hypothetical can be introduced and grasped with the mind. The mental jump can be made from the natural to the spiritual, from the practical to the theoretical. Self-expression finally comes into its own in the language arts; “hard” sciences and advanced mathematics are more easily mastered; history can be applied to economics and political science; and Bible study can turn to apologetics.
I can't help but wonder if during those dialetic and rhetoric stages, we are failing to capitalize on a young person's cognitive development. During those dialetic years, which co-incide with the beginning of the turbulent teen years, are we encoruaging questions? Are we answering the questions? After learning bible stories in the grammar stage, are we teaching them how those stories fit together in the biblical narrative?
The beginning of helping women develop an appetite for rich teaching is to start when they're teens. Let us evaluate what they are learning in those teen years. Yes, it is a time for making social connections, but I think that aspect is incredibly overdone. It may be that a teen only wants to engage in social activities, but as their parents, teachers, and leaders, is it not our job to keep pressing on in our efforts to help them develop deeper thinking?
What do our youth programs look like? Are they simply social clubs? Are they nothing more than santizied "girl talk" time? What about relationships with parents? Do we send our kids to their youth leaders for advice, thus abdicating our own responsibility with them? What kind of example are we setting as parents to pursue deeper teaching? This is an excellent time for family devotions to become something deeper. Unfortunately, our kids are all so busy with their social engagements, sporting events, and other activities that maintaining family devotions during this time is incredibly difficult.
It is a complex issue, but we shouldn't just throw our hands up and hope for the best. And yes, it is difficult to combat the tide of popular opinion. In general, I don't think deep thinking is encouraged in most places. It may be that our children in public schools are not encouraged to think deeply at all. Being a serious teenager who thinks isn't cool, and sadly, even in some youth groups, it isn't seen as "normal" for a teen to want to think deeply. Often, they're relegated to the "nerd" category.
I think it's worth it to encourage deep teaching in those teen years. It will be difficult, because it means you have to have the answers and the time to find them if you don't. But it's worth it. As a mother of adult children, I can tell you the effort is worth it. They may forget some of what you teach them, but they won't forget all of it.