I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. History surrounded us. The American Revolution started on the greens of Concord and Lexington, just a few miles from my house. Sam Adams, John Hancock and John Adams walked the streets of Boston. Paul Revere’s house is still there. The events surrounding the founding of our country came alive because we could see and touch it.
Here in Kansas, there’s a different kind of history. Settlers going west in covered wagons in search of a better life, stepped off on their trip in nearby Independence, Missouri. Bloody battles were fought between slave state Missouri and free state Kansas. Just down the road is the only original stagecoach stop still in existence.
Understanding historical events is not just an important part of our kids’ education. It’s an opportunity to help them separate fact from fiction. When we take our kids to visit historical sites and learn about the men and women who came before us, we teach our kids to appreciate the past. We teach them to appreciate the comforts they now have. And we can use it to teach them that faith is enduring and the events of the Bible are as real as the American Revolution or the Westward Migration.
When you visit a historical site with your kids, do so with an eye toward teaching them not just history but how to distinguish reality from fiction.
Do your homework. Before going to visit a historical site near you, find out what you can about it beforehand. Be prepared to answer questions. See if you can find an account of a person of faith who lived nearby or did something amazing either at the site or during the historical time period.
Prepare your kids. Before you go, read about the place you’re going to visit with your kids or read a fiction book set in the time period of the historical site. Talk about the difference between historical fact and historical fiction. Ask them what they think the Bible is. Talk about how the Bible is not just a story like a fiction book but is a factual account of things that actually happened.
Ask your kids questions. As you view the historical site, ask your kids questions about the event that happened there. Ask them how we know that those things happened. Talk about the evidence that lets us know what happened. It may be letters from someone who was there or other first-person accounts. It may be that archaeologists found the evidence. Talk with your kids about how the same evidence exists for the events in the Bible.
Have an ABC scavenger hunt. Give each child one of the ABC scavenger hunt printables. Ask them to write down facts about the historical site that start with each letter. You’ll have your kids hunting for signs to read and learning without even trying. On your way home, have everyone share their facts. Ask your kids why we should care about those facts. Talk about how understanding what happened in the past can encourage us through hardships now and help us to understand how to avoid mistakes in the future. Talk about how the events of the Bible help us to do the same thing.
Visiting an historical site with your kids can be a fun learning experience and part of The Best Summer Ever. We want to remember the past so that we can learn from it. Over and over again in the Bible, God tells us to not forget what happened before. Psalm 77:11 says “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” We can use a fun trip to a historical site to help our kids understand the importance of remembering what God did in the past.