As a 3-year-old, little Emily often astounded people by proclaiming her desire to be a paleontologist. Now a fifth-grader, her interest in fossils continues to grow.
How did Emily's homeschooling mom, Krista Bontrager, help generate such a sense of wonder? The same way she cultivates interest in subjects such as history, writing and Greek. Bontrager, perhaps better known as "Theology Mom," makes topics meaningful by showing their relationship to the Bible. She infuses a biblical perspective into her teaching to develop a Christian worldview that's reasonable enough to withstand intellectual challenges.
With two master of arts degrees from Talbot School of Theologyone in Bible Exposition and the other in Theologyas Theology Mom, Krista's goal is to equip parents to teach their children how to be mini-theologians. She says "theology is simply how to think about Godtheos means God; logos means word, thought, principle, or speech. Every Christian should be learning how to think about God. And, Christian parents can start teaching their children, from a very young age, how to be mini-theologians."
Parents have the opportunity to equip their children to answer certain questionswhat happens after I die? Why is there evil and suffering in the world? Is there a God? Why should I care? On some level, every child wants answers to those tough questions.
"Finding the answers to life's BIG questions is much the same as developing a healthy view of sex. If your sons and daughters are not taught at home, they'll take cues from their friends, television, and/or teachers with different belief systems. So parents must deliberately cultivate their child's worldview before culture dictates it," Bontrager said.
She encourages parents to think ahead and equip themselves so they can be the ones driving the conversation.
Groceries and field trips
Advance preparation can also help parents with children who are not naturally curious. Bontrager's younger daughter doesn't have the same natural inclinations as Emily. But questions help develop Abby's critical thinking skills and curiosity. An every-day trip to the grocery store can turn into an excursion for the mind.
"Where did the road come from?" Don't know? A trip to the library shows a child how to hunt for nuggets of knowledge. It's fascinating to discover that asphalt came from dinosaurs. To see how fossils can be used for something like a street also develops appreciation for a God who loves His children so much that He provided for all our needs.
Frequent field trips to museums also provoke mind-challenging ideas. "Free Tuesdays" at all the Los Angeles County museums make the La Brea Tar Pits, Natural History Museum and others easily accessible. Bontrager found another good museum in Claremontthe Alf Museum at Webb School. And, the new Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology in Hemet showcases more than one million fossils and artifacts. A parent's enthusiasm communicates to children that the discovery process is an adventure that continues throughout a person's life.
Passionate about nature
Theology Mom said she believes Christians should be passionate about the natural realm. Psalm 19:1 states that "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands." Romans 1:20 says that "since the creation of the world God's invisible qualitieshis eternal power and divine naturehave been clearly seen." A look at the starry night sky while delving into astronomy displays the Creator's magnificent power. Examining a tiny cell shows His attention to detail. While exploring creation, children and parents alike learn about God.
Bontrager said she's deeply concerned about preparing students to defend their beliefs before they go to college.
"The most heartbreaking e-mails I receive are from parents of college students who have a science professor that derails their faith," Bontrager said. "By then, parents have often lost a huge portion of their influence. Preparing students from a young age can empower them to impact the culture rather than being influenced by it."
Many parents appear to be thankful for Theology Mom's input. On her Facebook page, podcasts and Web site she delves into one fascinating topic after another. In addition, Bontrager's happy to address questions about such tricky topics as evolution and worldviews contrary to the Bible.
As dean of online instruction at science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe in Glendora, Calif., Bontrager has written several useful resources for those parents wanting to become better equipped. Her "Good Science/Good Faith" curriculum for Reasons Academy teaches high school students how to integrate the Bible with what they're learning in their science textbooks. Her "Teaching Science from a Christian Worldview Educator's Handbook" gives parents tips for analyzing curriculum and turning its challenges into learning opportunities.
Bontrager's approach to science makes kids, as well as their parents, want to learn more about God's creation. Her eldest daughter is living proof. Emily's love for the world around her has extended to a passion for all sorts of learning, including language and how to use words to tell stories. Now, she's even studying Greek and helping Abby to learn it, too. Theology Mom has them convinced that "there's no better way to interpret the Bible than to read it in the original language."
For more information on Bontrager's ministry, visit www.theologymom.com.