Why does Christ belong in history studies?

History with Heart of Dakota

Merry (late) Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!

This holiday weekend, our family is still feeling the glow from Christmas and looking forward to the dawn of a new year. One thing that makes Christmas such a special holiday is that it celebrates Jesus Christ coming down from heaven and entering human history. As a history lover, this fact especially fascinates me. What a blessing it is to know that our God isn’t a clockmaker God, content to create humanity and then let its history spin out unwatched by Him. God is actively involved with us and cares about His creation! This being the case, I believe it is a disservice to Him if history (the study of the legacy of God’s creation) is studied without even acknowledging Him.

What is a Christian worldview of history and why is it so important?

Having a Christian worldview of history doesn’t have to be preachy. Some of the best Christian historians I know are able to professionally paint the picture of a world undeniably under the control of God without explicitly naming Him every other sentence. Rather, it all has to do with a set of underlying assumptions. These assumptions form the basis of how we process and interpret facts. Ultimately, since these assumptions shape how we make decisions, they end up shaping our very lives.

As Christians, we believe the Bible to be true when it declares “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” In other words, the whole course of human history points towards its Creator and functions for His glory. To remove the Creator from the story of His Creation is to remove the soul from the study of history. Without God in the picture, not only is the study of human history pointless, but so is life itself.

Consequently, I believe it is especially important to help students build a biblical worldview while they are still school-aged. These formative years are crucial for shaping students into the men and women that they will become! If they learn to think about history with God in the picture when they are young, they will have learned to wisely walk in the world from an early age.

How does Heart of Dakota include Christ in history studies?

Did you that we’ve been asked to remove Christ and create a secular version of our curriculum? However, we’ve never considered this option; at Heart of Dakota, we firmly believe that Christ belongs at the center of history. One way we do this is to have the left page in each of our daily two page spreads function as a unit study. (This is true of our guides Little Hearts for His Glory on up.) The whole left side of each day’s spread presents a unified theme that weaves a Biblical narrative along with concurrent world events. So, rather than divorcing the Bible from historical context, the history reads as one holistic picture.

Another way we do this is to include dedicated devotional and Bible study elements in our curriculum. From our earliest guide to our final high school guide, students get to interact with the Bible and with the words of great Christians throughout history in an age-appropriate manner.

As our students read the Word of God and hear the stories of faithful Christians through the centuries, it is our prayer that they take this Biblical worldview as their own. With a Biblical worldview in their hearts, they will always have a Light with them that can guide them through this dark, turbulent world.

Why study history?

History with Heart of Dakota:

I have some exciting news to share: this is the first blog post I’ve written for Heart of Dakota since I graduated with a Bachelor’s in History through Liberty Online. My academic journey that began in preschool so many years ago has finally run its course. Done. Finito. Wow!

This has been an extremely exciting time for me! As I look back on my education, I can say that I am extremely grateful to Heart of Dakota for giving me a solid foundation for entering academia out of high school. Also, as I reflect on my college journey, I can say with confidence that the study of history has made me a better person. In fact, I would argue that history has valuable life skills to impart to anyone who studies it.

History teaches communication skills.

First of all, studying history teaches us how to be better communicators. When it is boiled down to its essentials, history is ultimately the study of people. As we study history, we are constantly rubbing shoulders with them! Some of these are excellent communicators… others not so much. Nevertheless, as we study these past communicators, we cannot help but pick up on how the effective ones were able to successfully convey their points.

Yet communication is much more than simply getting a point across. As we study a vast array of people throughout history, we also learn key skills such as empathy and social understanding. These skills cannot be valued highly enough when it comes to communicating! Communication is a two way street: hearing/knowing other people and respectfully making ourselves known (often in that order). History does a phenomenal job in teaching both sides of the communication coin to us.

History builds critical thinking.

Let’s face it; history is hardly ever simple. The “good guys” aren’t always perfect and the “bad guys” sometimes display surprising glimmers of goodness. To cloud matters even further, different cultures have different definitions for who the heroes and villains are in historical events. For example, North and South Koreans view their shared history in very different lights.

History teaches us to remember that there is always another side to every story. This sort of big-picture thinking is a valuable skill that I believe everyone can benefit from. It teaches us to be more patient and less quick to make snap judgements when dealing with other people. And, when we eventually do need to make decisions, we will end up making wiser and more-informed decisions. This is a skill that applies to all of life!

History acquaints students with all other fields of study.

As I’ve mentioned before, history is the study of people. This means that as we study history, we’re not limiting ourselves to a narrow field of study. No, history is much grander than that! In history, we encounter all forms of people from all walks of life. Scientists, strategists, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, inventors, educators, kings, politicians, priests, pastors, musicians, mathematicians, artists, and entertainers – history acquaints us with them all. And as we interact with these diverse figures, we learn more about their fields of expertise. You see, the study of history is far more than a boring list of names and dates. It is a grand, ongoing dialogue with figures from all other fields of study!

Because of these reasons (and many more!) I remain an unabashed apologist for the study of history.

How do we at Heart of Dakota incorporate history into our guides?

Because history is such a foundational area of study, we include it in each of our guides. Starting with Little Hearts and going all the way through US History II, the left side of our daily plans is the “Learning Through History” section. This side of our daily plans features a unit study feel of topics that naturally fit with the history topic for that day’s lesson. While these are all united around a historical theme, these assignments cover a vast array of skills! Some examples of topics/assignments included in this section are…

  • Timeline projects
  • Topical research
  • Geography
  • Read-alouds
  • Audios
  • Student notebook entries
  • History projects
  • Written and oral narrations

Finally (and most importantly), these subjects are integrated with a Biblical worldview.

God belongs at the center of history.

Perhaps the best way I can illustrate the importance of keeping God at the center of history is demonstrating what history looks like without Him in the picture…

Without God, history is merely the study of a specific group of mammals who by some freak accident have become self-aware and who nonetheless die with an alarming amount of regularity. In their relatively short lifespans, these sentient mammals build empires and try to leave their mark on the world. But without God in the picture, to what end do they do this? If this world really is just a random rock spinning through the cosmos until it finally burns out, is anything accomplished on it really worthwhile? What good does it do to study the legacy of those who came before us if it is all meaningless anyway?

Put God in His rightful place in history, however, and suddenly the past becomes rife with meaning. If, as Christians like me believe, God created the world and that one day He is coming back again, then history has a point and a direction. God is both the Author of history and the Destination towards which it travels. Therefore, what people in history did in their time echoes into eternity. The same is true of our own actions. Therefore, as we study the legacy of the past, we end up gaining the wisdom needed to better shape our own legacies to the glory of God.

In conclusion, when the complexity of human history meets the unchanging truth of God’s Word, we are able to find the meaning amidst the madness. And this is something we pray our students will experience for themselves as they study history in our guides.

In Christ,

Cole Austin

Alexander the Great: Brilliance and Brutality

History with Heart of Dakota

Who was Alexander the Great? 

Conqueror, explorer, leader, and visionary. These are just a few of the words that describe Alexander the Great. Born the son of legendary warrior-king Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander went on to outshine his father.  Philip transformed Macedonia from an unremarkable country to a ruling power in Greece; Alexander made Macedonia the ruling power in the entire known world. His conquests would stretch the Macedonian empire from the mountains of his homeland, to the sands of Egypt, to the expanses of Persia, all the way to the banks of the River Beas in India.

Personality of a Genius 

Alexander was a genius in more ways than one. First, his grasp of military tactics was unequaled in his day. He perfected the use of the phalanx – a tactic which his father had introduced. The phalanx was an infantry formation where soldiers grouped tightly together with each man’s shield protecting himself and his neighbor. In addition to this, each man also carried an 18-20 foot pike which he would thrust outwards from the shield wall. (Wasson) In a time where armies usually fought in a haphazard manner depending on sheer force of numbers to win, the phalanx gave Alexander’s soldiers a huge advantage. Oftentimes, enemy soldiers would simply break off his phalanxes like water off a rock. In addition to this, Alexander had distinct knack for sensing his enemy’s weakest position and massing his men to exploit it. Therefore, when his phalanxes came crashing through there was usually no stopping them.

Second, Alexander was a genius when it came to leading his men. He routinely made a point of leading the charge in battle rather than staying back in safety. Initially, he also insisted on sharing his men’s hardships. For instance, while marching his troops through the desert, according to biographer Peter Green, “…when a helmetful [sic] of muddy water had been found for him in some nearby gully – but no more was to be had – he laughed, thanked the donor, and then tipped the water out into the sand. So extraordinary was the effect of this action that the water wasted by Alexander was as good as a drink from every man in the army.” (434) Alexander lead by example, as all great leaders do. When his men saw him facing and overcoming the same challenges they faced, it inspired greatness in them as well.

Fatal Flaws

Nonetheless, Alexander was far from perfect. “Like many brilliant men,” historian John Gunther writes, “he was unstable…he ran from one extreme to another…” (46) While he could be caring and understanding, he also could be irrational and violent. He had a burning temper which resulted in him murdering some of his most faithful soldiers, such as Clitus and Parmenion. Also, during his final years he firmly believed himself to be descended from the Greek god Zeus. Those who did not acknowledge this were executed. (Gunther 138-139) Sadly, with no god to serve except himself, Alexander – once great – ended his life in drunkenness and confusion.

Lasting Impressions

Even though Alexander’s life was dramatically short (he only lived to be 32!) what he accomplished in that time has had repercussions that affect us to this day. His use of soldiers as disciplined units formed the gold standard in military tactics for hundreds of years afterward. In addition, by bringing many different countries under one empire, he spread the use of a universal language – Greek. Many scholars believe this was instrumental in spreading the Gospel 400 years later. He also founded many different cities – some of which remain to this day. (Many of these he named Alexandria, after himself.) Ultimately, much like God had used prior civilizations and kings to carry out His purpose in history, God used Alexander the Great to mold the world according to His own plan.

Which HOD guides can you find Alexander the Great in? 

Alexander the Great can be encountered in several of Heart of Dakota’s guides! You can find him in Little Hearts, Preparing Hearts, Creation to Christ, World Geography, and World History. You can also find a more in-depth study of him in John Gunther’s book Alexander the Great, which students can read in the extension package for Creation to Christ.

Bibliography 

Green, P. Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C. (University of California Press, 2013).

Gunther, J. Alexander the Great. (Sterling Publishing, 2007).

Wasson, D.L. The Army of Alexander the Great. (Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2014). 

Is Bible history covered in World History?

Dear Carrie

Is Bible history covered in World History?

Is there mostly a secular historical focus in the Heart of Dakota’s World History guide? Or, is there a good amount of content on Israel and the Hebrews? My 13 year-old daughter is finishing Missions to Modern Marvels. She really feels sad that she can’t remember much about Creation to Christ (CTC) years ago. I was contemplating going back and reviewing all of this with her. Or, will she hit it again in World History? For example, she doesn’t remember much about the 12 Tribes, the destruction of the temple, their exile, etc. It wouldn’t be hard to go through each page of her CTC notebook to refresh her memory. However, it might give her peace knowing that it will come up again in a couple of years. Come to think of it, does Heart of Dakota’s World Geography cover that material at all? Thanks!

Sincerely,

“Ms. Wondering If Bible History Is Covered in World History”

Dear “Ms. Wondering If Bible History Is Covered in World History,”

The Archaeology Book covers ancient Biblical civilizations, especially the geography of the Bible Lands, in the World Geography Guide quite well. There is also coverage of the Hebrew nation and the Twelve Tribes integrated within that. The World History Guide goes deeper into Biblical history. It definitely studies the fuller history of the Hebrew nation and the rise of Israel. Several resources focus on Old and New Testament history, albeit in the scope of a one-year tour through World History. When combined with the Old Testament Bible Survey course in the World History Guide, excellent coverage of Old Testament History is provided.

With the Biblical content in each of the guides, there is no way the high school guides could be viewed as secular.

Of course, there is also coverage of New Testament history in the World History Guide as well, with the pinnacle leading to the resurrection of Christ. Additionally, a New Testament Survey course is planned for the American History Guide the following year to more deeply study the New Testament. With the Biblical content contained in each of the guides, there is no way that either of the high school guides could be viewed as secular guides. In fact, I make a point when writing the guides to be sure that they are steeped in God’s Word and contain Biblical history as much as possible!

Together, the World Geography and the World History guides give a wonderful foundation in the geography and history of the Bible.

I share this to give you a fuller picture of what is ahead, and pray that your child will be as richly blessed by the upcoming guides as our own boys have – and are being blessed. You can easily wait to cover the areas you mentioned once you get to the World Geography and World History Guide if desired. Together, the high school guides give a wonderful foundation in the geography and history of the Bible. I agree that these topics are too important to be missed, or to be passed over lightly! That is why they come around again and are given a deeper look as the kiddos get older! This was a great question to ask! Thank you for asking it!

Blessings,

Carrie

Follow-Up Response from “Ms. Wondering If Bible History Is Covered in World History”

Thank you for your response! This really helps me in thinking through our next few years! It gives me a peace about covering this important time once again. I think I might have learned (and retained) more than my daughter with our first pass through Ancients, since she was so young. I am thankful and excited to spend more time in that period of history! Since the high school guide is written for high school credit, I was a little concerned that the history might have more of a secular slant. Thank you for working so hard to intertwine secular with Biblical history throughout high school!

 

Why I Love Pride and Prejudice.

History with Heart of Dakota

What’s so special about Jane Austen?

When it comes to classic literature, Jane Austen’s books will always have a special place in my heart. What makes her easier to read than, say, Sir Walter Scott, is that her lively sense of humor transcends time periods and is still easily-understandable in today’s age. Where most authors of her time kowtow to the societal structures of the Regency Era, Jane enjoys poking fun at their foibles. As she says through the voice of Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, “For what do we live, but to make sport of our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” (Austen 407)

Nonetheless, she is not so slap-happy with her sarcasm that she pokes fun at everything indiscriminately. She paints true virtues in positive tones and portrays wrongdoing without making light of it. As a rule, she respects what is respectable, detests what is detestable, and laughingly pokes fun at everything in between.

Another strength of Jane Austen’s literature is that her characters feel unshakably-real. Rather than being flat, the majority of them have relatable strengths or weaknesses. The way they think and act seems uncannily familiar – even to 21st century readers.

These qualities are all especially evident in Jane Austen’s magnum opus: Pride and Prejudice.

Historical backdrop

In today’s world of empowered women, it is difficult to imagine the different world that was the Regency Era. At that time, the options women of low social standing had were quite limited. While men were able to get an education at universities such as Cambridge, women were unable to attend such universities. Also, aside from employment as governesses, there were extremely restricted avenues for women to earn money through employment. (Even Jane Austen herself, though she earned some money through the sale of her novels, was very much the exception and not the norm.)

Finally, there was little-to-no chance of women being able to inherit an estate. (This would only be allowed in rare cases by privilege of nobility.) Therefore, in order to obtain financial security, women were expected to marry – and marry well. In the midst of all this – at a time where ladies were expected to be ornamental and materialistically-minded – Pride and Prejudice’s main character enters the scene.

Elizabeth Bennet

Elizabeth Bennet is easily one of my favorite protagonists of all time. While she generally stays within the boundaries of civility expected of her as a lady, she is teasingly-defiant of some of society’s sillier conventions. She is not so reverent of social politics that she is afraid to laugh at their inconsistencies. Rather, she is irreverently-unimpressed by the distinctions which title and rank alone could afford a person. She differs greatly from Regency Era expectations of women to be seen and not heard – even going so far as to tease some of the novel’s most formidable gentry!

Nonetheless, Elizabeth shows good sense and intelligence where it is necessary. Though she is a flawed character who has weaknesses like any other person, she readily admits where she was wrong and does not remain stubborn and unyielding for long. As a reader from modern times, I find Elizabeth Bennet to be a breath of fresh air from the traditional heroines of books from that era. Not so progressive as to be obnoxious, Elizabeth Bennet nevertheless exists in a manner that outclasses her times.

Timeless themes

Another reason Pride and Prejudice is so timeless is because its themes are still relevant in today’s culture. A key theme is to never judge someone based on your first impression. (Fun fact: Jane Austen originally titled the book “First Impressions” before settling on “Pride and Prejudice”.)

Another key theme is the wisdom of choosing who you marry carefully. This is especially relevant today! Many young people (myself included!) have questions about relationships on their minds. They want to see what a healthy relationship looks like. They want to see what character traits to look for in someone they might date/court. Tired of being hoodwinked by Hollywood, they  hunger to know what love really looks like.

This, my friends, is where Pride and Prejudice shines! It is far more than a manners and morality tale; it is an honest look at what character traits make a man or woman. In the novel, you see the good, the bad, and the ugly. You see stupidity, selfishness, and pride put on full display. But you also see character traits reminiscent of the Proverbs 31 woman and the Ephesians 5 man shining for all to see.

Ultimately, Pride and Prejudice perceptively demonstrates that while marriage is a huge blessing, rushing headlong into marriage often does more harm than good. “Marriage alone is not a virtue,” Jane Austen seems to counsel us. “It’s who you marry that makes or breaks your success.”

Where in HOD can you find Pride and Prejudice?

You can find Pride and Prejudice in the English credit section of our US History II high school curriculum. For those who want to dive deeper into the Pride and Prejudice experience, there is an option that includes an excellent BBC miniseries adaption starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. (Personally, I would highly-recommend seeing it; it’s true to the book and the acting is FANTASTIC!)

References:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. (Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2004).