"Truly, I say to you, unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven," Matthew 28: 3
The Bible records The Word of God. It is not directly the Word of God like as if God were making a typing dictation. It is an interpretation by people, often passed down orally before it was written down BUT this interpretation is inspired by the Holy Spirit and so we believe, in essence, it is the Word of God. The amazing thing about the Bible is that no matter how old or young you are or what life circumstances you are in - the Bible speaks to YOU, directly to you. That means two things 1) that as you grow and gather life experience, maturity and insight you need to take conscious steps to keep your religious understanding growing - you need to be an active lifelong learner in the faith, and 2) when it comes to understanding God, little children are as wise as the most learned and wise adult.
First Story - "Taking the King for a ride"
When my children were little I frequently read them Bible stories from picture books designed for children. I steered away from the crucifixion stories because I wanted to protect them from the nasty reality of what people can do.
When my oldest son was 3, due to a variety of reasons I ended up taking him to the 3pm Good Friday service which retells the Passion of our Lord (the events leading up to his Crucifixion). I hoped he wouldn't tune into the story too much. Only four days previously, he'd attended the Palm Sunday mass and enthusiastically waved a palm.
Afterwards he was angry and uncooperative and as he was a great one for a story I guessed he must have understood quite a bit of it.
At the time we were living in a large character house in Timaru which we were renovating and as it was a bit like a building site I let the children ride their tricycles around inside the house. The next day I found him riding around on his tricycle with the crucifix sitting in the trailer at the back. He had had to climb up high to get the crucifix off the wall. Normally, he would have known that the crucifix wasn't a toy to play with. But when I asked him what he was doing he said,
"I'm taking the King for a ride."
My point is - children, even very young children, understand.
The Word of God is accessible to all of us at every age and stage, its never too early or too late.
In 2014 the teachers at St Joseph's worked through the theology and key concepts for each RE strand. Bearing these in mind we came up with key ideas which we could keep constant and develop through each child’s journey at St Joseph’s school. The need for this was based on the high number of children who enter our school at different levels, many missing out on junior and middle teaching in RE. The concepts had to be ones which would be accessible to both 5 and 13 year olds who are at different stages of RE knowledge and at different stages in their faith journeys.
We proposed to “test” these concepts over three years. We hoped that if we kept these concepts at the forefront we would see a deepening of understanding as children move through the school. We helped embed the concepts through our whanau groups where children gather across the school and share their learning with other year levels.
At the end of term 1 our first comparative results for the Jesus strand are available.
Our results at this stage show that most groups have already exceeded their baseline data. That means they've progressed more over two years than we would have expected them to progress over a three year period and exceeded previous achievement by more than a year.
So it also looks as if the key concepts we chose were good ones - relevant across the age groups. We assess RE rigorously in the same way we have to rigorously assess the National Standard subjects and we do that because at our school our Special Character is of the utmost importance to us and we want our RE teaching to be of the highest quality. We are very pleased that these first results show a significant gain in achievement across the board.
To all the people I've met in my three and a bit years in Oamaru - thank you for your warmth and your openness. Our time in Oamaru has been a real treasure to all my family. Our connections with Oamaru will remain strong and we will be around from time to time, so we look forward to catching up.