What exactly is a principle?

What is a principle? I’m so glad you asked! It is best to start at the beginning, after all. Webster’s 1828 defines it generally as:

PRIN’CIPLE, n. [L. principium, beginning.] 1. In a general sense, the cause, source or origin of any thing; that from which a thing proceeds; as the principle of motion; the principles of action.

In the Biblical Principle Approach, a principle is that from which a subject springs. Principles are the foundation of the subject. It is the seed from which the subject grows. Like a seed, it contains the life and everything needed to grow in the subject.

Where do they come from? In a word, the Bible. All subjects find their origin in God as Creator. He is the source of everything.

What’s the big deal about using Biblical Principles? Well, the point is that you get to the source of the subject, the origin. Also the principles apply to the whole of the subject, helping you form a deeper understanding to (hopefully) master it. It also helps you develop a deeper appreciation of God’s way of doing things when you see how a subject is constructed. You can discover all sorts of things that apply to other areas of life and it can actually make teaching FUN because you are learning as well. It also makes teaching easier on one way. Because your lessons always point to a principle, your learning has a point beyond just filling in a worksheet. It has a greater focus which can help you do more than just get through another consumable book. It has a goal beyond finishing, and to me that helps make teaching easier.

Why teach from Biblical Principles?

It’s the way Jesus taught.The Pharisees didn’t like his approach much. They wanted facts, rules. He got to the heart of the matter. He was able to sum up the 10 commandments in two principles. His approach frustrates the flesh but gives life to the spirit. There are more examples of His teaching methods than I can list here but I recommend the book Teaching Techniques of Jesus by Herman Horne.

It’s good to begin at the beginning. You must get to the foundation of a subject in order to master it. Beginning with principles is the first step toward subject mastery.

You can teach multiple levels because you are teaching the seeds of the subjects , so you can easily adjust it for different ages. More seed for older children, little bites of kernels for  younger ones.

There is proven success teaching from Biblical principles. America’s founding fathers were educated by principles and were able to reason from God’s word. Their excellent reasoning and ability to form our constitution were a result of their Biblical education.

The subjects are alive in His word and it makes each subject exciting and important when you see how it fits into His Story.

You learn how to learn by beginning with the foundation of a subject. The steps to discovering Biblical principles apply to any subject at any time and carry across the curriculum.



5 things America got right

“I know my own principles to be pure and therefore am not ashamed of them. On the contrary, I wish them known and therefore willingly express them to everyone. They are the same I have acted on from the year 1775 to this day, and are the same, I am sure, with those of the great body of the American people.”

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Smith, 1798

1. Separation of powers

The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election… They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided.

Alexander Hamilton

2. Dual form of government

Seldom today do we hear mentioned one of the most unique aspects of our Constitution—our dual form of government—the state and the nation. This refers to the national-federal structure of our Constitution. There is not a country today on the face of the globe that embodies this Christian principle of government—and we ourselves have allowed it to deteriorate.

Slater, R. J., & Hall, V. M. (1975). Teaching and learning America’s Christian history (American Revolution Bicentennial ed.) (242). San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education.

3. Negative rights Wikipedia

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
— Patrick Henry

4. Religious liberty

It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

Patrick Henry

5. Representative Republic

Modern times have discovered the only device by which the equal rights of man can be secured to wit: government by the people, acting not in person, But by representatives chosen by themselves…

Thomas Jefferson

A representative government, responsible at short intervals of election, produces the greatest sum of happiness to mankind.

Thomas Jefferson

Some thoughts on liberty

Proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof. Leviticus 25:10

“Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  John Adams

“We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.”  James Madison

“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”  Thomas Jefferson

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”  Patrick Henry

“The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”  John Adams

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” James Madison

Of lanterns and lighthouses

I love to plan. Seriously, I LOVE it. Home educating quenches that desire in me because I have to plan on a regular basis. Score.

Even though I really enjoy it, sometimes I think I can get by without planning. For some moms, loose plans or [gasp!] no plans aren’t a big deal. I am not one of those moms.

Lesson plans are the way the big picture gets done. They are a map to get you to your destination. Mrs. Smith says that goals are the lighthouse and lesson plans are the lantern. I love that! They are what enables you to move along the path without getting distracted and without losing sight of the big picture.  They keep you moving along toward your destination.

This summer I am trying to be more diligent about evaluating (more details to come) and planning for the year. I sleep better at night knowing not just where we are headed, but how we are going to get there.

I look to my lighthouse and get my bearings. Then I take my children by the hand. The lantern helps us avoid the rocks and other obstacles on our particular home educating path. I can’t see very far ahead but I don’t need to. I trust the Keeper of the Lighthouse has it all under control.

Gentle BPA

With all the trappings of Biblical Principle Approach–word studies, 4-Ring, notebooks, the Red Books, Rudiments, etc., you can easily get overwhelmed and frustrated. Your idea of home education is not caught up in books and all that research, but in being with your children, learning alongside them. There is a way to do both.

  • Ease into the whole BPA mindset. It takes time and effort to reformulate your ideas of American Christian education, to get a handle on the terminology and to reflect on what you are learning. Give yourself time. How much time? As much as it takes.
  • Take one subject and deal with that. Don’t take the whole homeschooling elephant in one bite. You’ll just pull something and you’ll still be hungry.
  • Don’t make everything formal. You can ease into word studies and literature studies without making a big announcement. It’s okay to just fold these things into your homeschooling day. Pull out the Bible and the 1828 dictionary and just ask a few questions. The children will do the work for you.
  • Lower your expectations. That seems counter-intuitive to BPA philosophy, at least at first blush. But we are home educators, not classroom Master Teachers. We [probably] teach multiple grades with many subjects and to expect to become a Master Teacher in every subject is asking for a breakdown. Just keep ahead of your students. Learn alongside them. Discover things together as you dig into the Word. It’s amazing how lowered expectations can set you free and actually produce better results in the long run.
  • Think of teaching deep, not broad. The principles expand through the grades, so you get deeper and deeper, as Ms. Dang says, going 20 years deep. It’s not a smattering of learning but more like digging a well. A well your children can draw from as they learn to teach themselves.
  • Take one principle per subject per day. No need to overwhelm baby birds with too much food. It will just fall to the ground. One idea to reflect on and discuss will lead to exciting results.

What challenges do you encounter with the Biblical Principle Approach? If you are new to this methodology, what questions do you have?

5 myths of Biblical Principle Approach home education

  1. It is too labor-intensive. Yes, it does require much from the teacher. Everything in life that is worth anything has come about through struggle and toil and patience and diligence. You must internalize the principles in order to teach them. And that takes time. Too much time, it seems sometimes. But in the end the price is small compared to the rewards of seeing your children maturing in the Lord, reasoning effectively form God’s Word and exhibiting Christian character.
  2. It is too expensive. Actually the Biblical Principle Approach is economical. Real literature and other resources can be reused and enjoyed. Compared to consumable programs, BPA is affordable.
  3. It is only focused on American history. It is not. We study the whole chain of Christianity, that is, the whole timeline. Nothing in His Story happens in a vacuum. Since we study from cause to effect, we study all of history all around the world.
  4. It is classical education. BPA is not classical education after the Greek model. It is considered Biblical classical, after the Hebrew model.
  5. I can pick it up and use it right away. While the Noah Plan from the Foundation for American Christian Education has lesson plans for grades K-3, but is difficult and burnout-inducing to jump in before you have renewed your mind and formed your philosophy of education and at least gotten the basics of a BPA education under your belt. It’s not a race or a canned curriculum. It is something that takes time and effort to implement.

Transitioning to Biblical Principle Approach

butterflyBPA is so exciting, so life changing, so excellent that those new to this approach can, in their zeal, overdo things and burnout quickly. It can leave you feeling like you have failed or that BPA is not a fit for you. Because it requires more on the part of the parent-teacher, it takes more time to make the changes you desire to see in your homeschool.

It is not a matter of simply tossing out the old and starting fresh Monday morning. There is a process that will keep you growing, learning, and on track. I cannot stress strongly enough the word transition. It is a process, not a box you open and use right away.

First you must renew your own mind. You cannot teach it until it has been made light to you. Take time to internalize scripture, principles and the ideas of America’s Christian history before you even begin to add it to your lessons.

Then you choose one subject and 4-R that. Leave all your other materials as they are and teach only that one subject BPA. Introduce this new way of learning in history, literature or whatever subject you feel led to choose.

Add one subject each year that you teach from a BPA perspective. Baby steps will prevent burnout. Jumping in and trying to teach every subject this way from the start will leave you exhausted and frustrated.

Keep your standards high and your expectations low. Your children may struggle with ideas and producing their own work. Present one idea per lesson per day. Don’t overfeed and be patient. Let them sit with ideas and wrestle for their own education. They will own it and real learning will happen.

Making small changes over the years will get you where you want to go. Displacing ideas, Biblical reasoning and producing your own work all take time, effort and patience. As long as you understand it’s not a race but a journey, your transition can be a happy and painless one (but not without struggle!).

Enjoying a good word study

Word studies are hard. And dry. And time-consuming. At least that’s how some people see it. Even the title makes me chortle. Who ever heard of such a thing as actually being fun? Well, everything we do for our kids’ education can be something we enjoy. If not all of it, then at least some part.

You may not know what a word study is. Or you may avoid them. Or you may do them and not know them by that name. Whatever category you fit in, I think you can see word studies not as a necessary evil, but as an important tool in your home educating process. Any home educator can implement word studies, no matter what approach or curriculum is in use. It’s a powerful way to bring a subject alive for teacher and student.

…Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom,  and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach…   Daniel 1:4 KJV

A word study is simple and straightforward. One way to do one is as follows:

  1. Choose a key word from your study in any subject.
  2. Define the word from Webster’s 1828 dictionary.
  3. Underline key words in the definition and look those up in the 1828.
  4. When you feel you have defined it sufficiently, begin to find the words you underlined in a Bible concordance. Write down any scripture you deem relevant to the words and definitions.
  5. Using all this information, write your own definition of the word.
  6. Using the information you have gathered, deduce the Biblical principle from the study.

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. Jer. 15:16 NIV

Now who wouldn’t like to do that? Seriously, there is something really exciting about learning something new about a word you assumed you knew the definition of. And it’s even more exciting to see what God has to say about that word. Or with that word.  Why do I want to do a word study?

  • To understand the English language better.
  • To have mastery over a topic/subject so I can teach it better.
  • To deepen my understanding.
  • To learn God’s thoughts on a matter.
  • To improve my scholarship.
  • To increase in wisdom.
  • To discover the Biblical principles on a matter.
  • As a springboard for a new/deeper study (AKA “rabbit trail”).

Some tips to enjoy your word study more:

  • Don’t do it when you are tired. Nothing is fun then.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Do it in chunks even.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment. Then expect amazing things to happen because God will show up right in the middle of your study.
  • Get your kids involved. Let them be your research assistants. Make it a family affair. (read: don’t be a martyr, studying alone for hours on end with frequent sighing and complaining.)
  • Don’t do them all the time. They are not necessary every week.
  • Don’t give independent word study assignments to young kids. This is a bad idea. When your kids are younger the word studies are for you to digest and give to them on their level. As they get older you can introduce the idea and start walking them through the process in small doses.
  • If you don’t like them, ask God to change your heart. Things you hate to do can actually become joyful times with the Lord. It is always delightful to spend time in His word.
  • Share what you learn with your spouse and anyone else who will listen. Don’t become obnoxious, but share what you learn liberally with others. They probably can use something you learned.
  • Reward yourself when you are done. (Ooooh, I hear M&M’s and a bubble bath calling me, but I digress…)
  • Invest in quality tools. A nice pen, clean paper, a Strong’s concordance will make you more willing to get the job done. And who doesn’t enjoy a nice writing pen?
  • Be willing to stop and enjoy what you are learning. Take a breath, sit back and Selah–think on these things.