Kids and Culture

I have an idea I’m working on here that involves a version of the Critique for kids (I had that idea a while ago and a few folks on here mentioned they would be in favor of something like that, so I’m giving it a lot more thought).

After analyzing the first survey, I thought this idea would be a total no-go. The parent response came back heavily on the side of, “We’re completely comfortable with discussing pop culture with our kids” and the parents who choose not to watch movies with their kids are a vocal bunch.

So I thought about it some more and polled the parents again in a follow-up survey. The question I asked was this:

One idea we’ve had is to offer a supplemental parent pull-out that would rotate every three or four months. For example, in January we might offer parents a list of recommended books along with reviews; in February, we might offer a supplement that reviews movies kids are interested in and provides discussion questions that would both affirm and challenge the content from a biblical worldview; in March we could offer a third type of parent resource and then the cycle would roll over again with a book list in April, movie review and discussions questions in May, and so on. Would this be something your family would be interested in?

Most of the parents are in favor of the idea (40.2% said “Absolutely!” 34.4% said “I like it!” 14.5% said “Perhaps”  10% said “Not so much” and 1.9% said “No way!”) but it’s the 11.9% in the last two categories that are puzzling me.

The folks in this group are saying one of two things: 1) We get this resource from Plugged-in; 2) We don’t watch movies at all.

To the folks saying they get this already, I wish I could go back and explain again how I’m thinking this would be different from Plugged-in. I’m less interested in providing folks with a list of numbers of curse words and how many times Character A was disrespectful to his parents. I think those things need to be considered, yes (disprespectful tone in cartoon characters was the number one reason we don’t let our kids watch Arthur anymore). But the direction of the idea of a form of the Critique would be less about counting the number of times our Christian sensibilities are offended and more about taking a look at the story of the movie and discussing together, with our kids, what things we CAN affirm about it as well as what things we need to challenge.

I’m thinking that by offering this resource to the parents, the parents could then choose whether or not to share it with their kids. If that particular family is anti-movie all together, then we’ve not handed something directly to their kids they are completely offended by. On the other hand, I think this could be a very good tool for helping parents begin to engage their children with the culture in a way that does bring about themes of redemption in stories that don’t normally run around in the Christian Culture Book of Order.

Sooo…. if any of you are still around (and I’m not surprised if you aren’t because this blog has been silent and will soon probably go dark altogether), I would love to get your thoughts on this.



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Why We’re Doing This

The How Kids Think project has an end goal of helping God’s World Publications develop materials that will better enable parents and teachers to develop children who know how to think discerningly as Christians.

Why did we agree to do this? Let me give you an excerpt from an email we received this morning in response to our dinner discussion last night in Boca Raton:

Thank you for the delicious dinner last night at the Grille. I enjoyed our time together, and was encouraged at the work you all are doing on behalf of families like mine. I do hope the time was fruitful for you both. You have a tremendous task before you, to reach the hearts and minds of parents and schoolchildren alike, setting their “worldview” toward an “authenticity” that is much needed now.

She got it. We do indeed want to help both children and parents align their worldview with that which is truly biblical.

That’s why we’re doing this…and what we want to do more of.

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Live and Local in Florida

We will be traveling to Florida next weekend (October 26-29) and hosting three breakfast/dinner discussions which are open to anyone involved in Christian education (classroom teachers/administrators/etc. and homeschool parents). If that describes you and you live around Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton, please consider yourself invited.

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Last Drawing Winner

Our last drawing winner for our research blog project is Rose. Congrats, Rose! And thanks for all the insightful responses you’ve consistently provided over the past six weeks.

There could be a few more questions to pop up over the next few weeks – we’d appreciate your keeping an eye on here periodically to see if something pops up.

Thanks again for all of your help! We appreciate each and every one of you.


Craig and Megan

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The Third Way

It’s a bit ironic how, in this context, the public school is sometimes considered the “third way,” when that used to be the obvious first choice for all families. I realize our research has been focusing primarily on what kinds of materials GWP can produce to enable parent and classroom educators to better equip their children/students as they grow into more thinking, discerning Christians.

I also realize the goal of developing children into thinking, discerning Christians is not limited to families who have chosen homeschooling or Christian schools for their kids.

I’d like to ask the parents who have chosen public school for their kids what you feel like you could use to help you and your kids view their educational experiences through a biblical lens? What kind of publication would really encourage your family as you seek to raise your kids for the glory of God? Does it look different from what we’ve already been talking about here the past five weeks?


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How Parents Think

What do parents need in a news-ish publication for kids? One parent said:

“I sometimes feel that I don’t have a broad enough knowledge base to give a more thorough explanation of the news articles. They often raise questions that I’m unable to answer. I understand and appreciate the brevity of the articles in the lower grades, but I feel we don’t have the whole picture.”

The first time we subscribed to Early Edition (three years ago), I read the articles to my then-5 year-old and was surprised (in a good way) that a news mag for young children was informing ME of news. It didn’t particularly bother me that I didn’t “have the whole picture,” because I didn’t keep up with news on my own. I began leaning on my kids’ news publications to become my informant as well.

This could be okay for parents with young kids who might not question the content too much, but what changes as they grow? The stories become more complex in the older editions of the magazines and kids, of course, have better developed reasoning skills. If parents (like I tended to be) haven’t kept up with the news on their own, they might be in conversational trouble if they don’t know what’s going on outside of the kids’ magazines.

So what do parents need? Would more developed articles on the stories (written for adults), available on the Internet be helpful? Do you think they would be utilized? If not the Internet, then what?


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Thoughts on “Social Studies”

I put those words in quotes because in the surveys we sent out we got a lot of snide comments (really) about using that phrase as a catch-all to include history and geography. A majority of the home educators among us didn’t like that phrase AT ALL.

Call it what you will, but tell me what you think about it. I will preface this by saying I’m a loyalist. I love the curriculum company I purchase from (Sonlight) and it would take something really major to make me switch. That said, there are times the history texts put ME to sleep. I know my kids are wishing we were doing just about anything else but reading Diary of an Early American Boy. I also realize that’s a book in the science portion of Sonlight, but it’s a history book, trust me.

Many of the books used in Sonlight contain a lot of evolutionary material. I’m not afraid of teaching my kids about the theory – they need to know about it so they can defend against it; I do, however, get tired of it being so dominant. I oftentimes edit-on-the-fly as I’m reading to them just to avoid the discussion (true confession). These aren’t things that are going to make me stop using Sonlight, but I would really love to have something more engaging (and less evolutionary) for my kids in this department.

One of our teacher surveys had this to say:

“Geography and History are my subjects. Secular material gets pretty sketchy in geography because it is so hung up on an evolutionary viewpoint. Some of my history curriculum, on the other hand, has a heavy Fundamentalist Baptist bias; for example, one of Columbus’ flaws was that he was a Catholic, according to my teacher manual (so was everybody else in Western Europe during Columbus’ lifetime).”

What do you think? Do your kids love history, no matter what? Are you satisfied with the materials you are using (or your school is using)? What, if anything, would make it better?


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For Your Teacher Contacts

Many of you said you had teacher contacts in your lives whom we could get in touch with. It’s really looking at this point like our goal of traveling to them for live discussion just isn’t going to work, so we’ve come up with an alternate solution.

We started a Google Group specifically for those involved in Christian schools. We’re in the process of asking teachers and administrators to join the discussion group by sending out letters that includes the following (some of what has been mentioned here on the blog before):

We asked a Christian school teacher/former administrator who keeps an interactive website what he thought about our dilemma and he had some great insight for us. We thought inviting teachers to talk about their curriculum needs was the right way to phrase our intent to discuss biblical worldview in the classroom, but we may have been wrong.

The teacher we asked said, “From a teacher’s perspective, a survey from a publisher is not how curriculum gets developed. Curriculum is developed within a school community as it focuses on mission and then decides what and how to teach. Text books are tools to accomplish curricula goals, but texts are not synonymous with curriculum.”

We would like to further explore what this means. If texts are not synonymous with curriculum in the schools, what is? Our approach to discuss “curriculum” with teachers has possibly been incorrect. We may not be getting many answers because we’re asking the wrong questions. We need your help in determining what the right ones are (and also in figuring out their answers).

Would you consider joining a temporary e-list discussion group to help us think better about this? Our bottom line? We want to produce materials that help kids become discerning Christians. We want to produce materials to that end that teachers NEED. We need help in determining just what that is.

We just created an e-group through Google Groups called “How Kids Think” (which is the name of our research project for God’s World Publications). We will not automatically add you to the group unless you give us permission to do so. Our research project wraps up in mid-November, so the discussion group will have a fixed end. You will not be required to participate in every discussion, and you may leave the group at any time.

We greatly value your input; we need more of it. Please consider getting in on the discussion and help us do our best to help you.

If you would be willing to join an e-list discussion with us, please send your email address to us at and we will add you to the group.

If you mentioned to us that you had a connection with a Christian school, teacher, and/or administrator, could we ask you to send a personal email to them (from you) telling them a little about our project? You could point them to this post, or you could copy and paste it in your email to them. We would love to get 15-20 teachers (or more) involved in our google groups discussion. If you do invite someone to the discussion, please leave a comment (or send an email) letting us know and we’ll make sure you get entered into the drawing this week for doing so.


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Week Four Drawing

Congrats this week to Jess. She had the 28th comment which was the number picked by the Random Number Generator.

As always, please continue to share your thoughts with us. We’re not sure how much longer we’re going to keep asking questions and giving away gift certificates, but we’ll guarantee it for one more week at least. We will make the decision for a subsequent week(s) at that time.

Have a great weekend!

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Integrating Print and Internet

Let’s get back to talking about how to best meet the current events needs for kids (and we’re asking everyone here: parents and teachers).

How do you think we can best integrate print resources with web-based ones? It seems as though parents don’t really want their (especially young) children hanging around on the Internet all day (and we concur; we don’t want our kids hanging around on the Internet all day either), so what’s a good middle?

What would you think about having a weekly news magazine, similar to what God’s World News (GWN) currently is, with an intentional weekly Internet component? This could look like links to “safe” sources for more information, more developed thinking activities for the kids to interact with on the GWN site, or even weekly webcast talks/interviews with someone who can add an extra diminsion to the news covered in the weekly magazines.

What other possibilities can you think of that would best meet the needs of how to make news current, relevant for kids, and framed in a way that mirrors your biblical values?


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How Teachers Think

We’ve mentioned we’re rookies at this research process, so today we come clean with what has been pointed out as a mistake as to how to get teachers to discuss what might be missing from their classroooms.

We thought inviting teachers to talk about their curriculum needs was the right way to phrase our intent to discuss biblical worldview in the classroom, but we may have been wrong.

We found one teacher on the Internet who teaches at a Christian school and is a former school administrator. We asked him if he had any ideas as to how to get in with teachers to discuss their curriculum needs, and he had some insightful things to say:

“From a teacher’s perspective, a survey from a publisher is not how curriculum gets developed. Curriculum is developed within a school community as it focuses on mission and then decides what and how to teach. Text books are tools to accomplish curricula goals, but texts are not synonymous with curriculum.”

Curriculum is developed within a school community? Do any of you have anything to add to this? How? If texts are not synonymous with curriculum in your situation, what is?

If our approach to discuss “curriculum” needs has been incorrect, what should our approach look like instead? We may not be getting answers because we’re asking the wrong questions. What’s the right one(s)?

Updated to add: This post is about a separate aspect of our research: finding out how to discuss with teachers at Christian schools. We did not mean to imply that we were unahppy with the direction of those participating in the blog discussions. Not at all. Please continue to give us your input. We also need the input of the teachers, but we’re trying to figure out how to go about doing that in a different way.


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Live and Local Help Needed

One aspect of our research has been to try to schedule live meetings with teachers and/or administrators at Christian schools. They are a tough group to get in with, particularly with the short timespan we have to work with (now through mid-November). We’re finding that the only way to get our foot in the door (in every sense of that phrase) is to have a personal connection already in play.

This leads us to this next question – do any of you know any teachers/administrators in Christian schools in your area you could put us in touch with? We would love to come see them (and other teachers in their area) to discuss similar concepts in person.

Would you let us know if you might have a connection for us?


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See Dick and Jane Read Current Events

Another topic of interest that has been coming up in the survey responses pertains to readability of materials written for kids. For some folks, magazine articles written in a format children can easily read by themselves is a high priority (sort of a Dick and Jane for world news topics). Others much prefer stories that, while simply written for children to understand, are not filled with five-words-or-less sentences.

What’s the priority to you? If you have emerging readers in your home or classroom, would you prefer to hand them a publication they can totally read to themselves, or do you prefer longer sentence structure even if it means you have to sit and read it to the children yourself?

What about pre-readers? Are pictures worth 1,000 words?


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Pop Culture

On the surveys we sent out last week, we asked a couple of questions about kids and pop culture, namely, how comfortable do parents and teachers feel in addressing pop culture topics with their kids and how do they go about doing it (ie: do they initiate pop culture discussions with their kids, wait until the kids bring it up, or avoid discussing pop culture altogether)?

The overwhelming majority of folks said they felt 100% comfortable in discussing pop culture with their kids, which is great, though most of the parents filling out the survey equated pop culture with “worldliness,” using that word exactly.

So, what do you, the How Kids Think blog focus group, think about that? Does pop culture have to or always equate to worldliness? Do your discussions on pop culture center on what’s wrong with it, or do you also incorporate things we can affirm? What does that look like in your context?


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Week Three Drawing

Congrats to Graham, whom the Random Number Generator selected as this week’s recipient of the $50 Amazon certificate.

As always, please continue to leave your thoughts below. Any new comments will go into next week’s drawing.

Have a great weekend!

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What Does “Current” Mean?

Another topic brought up in one of our live meetings this week centered around the topic of “current.” A big complaint we’ve heard from many, many parents in the last few weeks is that you can’t really do “current events” in print anymore because the internet has made print obsolete (Internet killed the newspaper star, perhaps?). The curriculum director for one of the Christian schools in St. Louis made the point, though, that the idea of “current events” for students, young students in particular, isn’t exactly the same as what adults tend to think of as current events.

She said that current events for students is more what is important to them and not necessarily breaking news.  This isn’t to say that we don’t introduce what we think of as “current events” in age appropriate ways to young kids, but that we need to keep in mind that what they think of as current and what we think of as current are not always the same.

What do you think about that? Anything you would add to, concur with, deviate from in this idea?


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What Kids Read

Switching gears here a bit, and in light of one of the topics brought up during our live meeting last night, I’m curious to know what magazines your kids read? Which publications exist right now (for kids) would you absolutely love if they came directed from a biblical worldview?


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“Bad” Christians

So, to reverse the process of the question asked two days ago, Chickadee wonders, “Can you be a Christian and not have a biblical worldview?”

What say you?


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Rose asked a great question too that I thought we’d post today. To get the full context behind the question, be sure to read her whole comment. Now then, the question(s):

How do we go about equipping kids during their first eighteen years for the kinds of attacks they’ll face in the “real” world without overprotecting on the one hand and overwhelming on the other? How do we maintain the right balance between what is taught and what is caught? And do we need to use different approaches when dealing with a strong-willed child as opposed to a compliant child?


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Moral vs. Christian Worldview

We thought we’d start the week off with one of Graham’s questions (thanks for leaving such great ones to think about!):

Is it possible to have a Christian worldview and not be a Christian?

This debate (while not new) came up in full-force several years ago when WORLD hosted a writing contest for fiction told from a Christian worldview, but not necessarily what we think of as “Christian” fiction. A lot of the stories written were stories of redemption, but not ones in which the name of Jesus was typed out within the page. Many folks commenting on the stories cried, “Fowl!” saying that the “worldview” stories were no different than good moral stories or ones in which many other religious worldviews could be told from.

What’s the difference between something that explicitly shares the gospel and something that maybe doesn’t (in so many words), yet still points toward a Christian way of thinking?

Do you think you can hold to a Christian worldview yet not be a Christian?


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