As my children get older, they spend more time completing research papers and watching the news. We’ve encouraged this to help them began to consider, understand, and interact with the broader world around them. We have been trying to help show them that they need to consider their source as they research anything. As an example, my son was fond of using Wikipedia or random websites that were not considered quality sources.
Setting the Scene
On our recent trip to Pennsylvania, my children got a real-world lesson in considering their sources.
We spent a few days in Pennsylvania helping out with a benefit auction and visiting with friends. We had a wonderful trip and finished our time with a day of ‘tourist’ time in the Lancaster area. It was a lovely trip that included a night sleeping in a train car, a ride on a train, and riding on an Amish-style horse-drawn wagon.
As we went on our ride with a very ‘English’ driver (the term the Amish use for those who are not Amish or Mennonite), the children started to look at me with questioning eyes. I gave them the signal to stay quiet and let them know that we would chat later.
Why would I have them wait to ask their questions? I knew that they were questioning the information that the driver was sharing.
The driver did not know that in 2018/2019, we were blessed with the opportunity to personally meet and get to know a variety of wonderful people from various Amish and Mennonite communities. They came to our church as volunteer groups to help with disaster relief following Hurricane Florence.
Each group came from a different community, and each group was diverse but it gave us a new perspective on the way of life in these communities. They would spend a week staying at our church and going out in the community to help rebuild houses.
Our family assisted in the hospitality efforts at the church, and therefore often got to share meals and conversations with the groups. Our trip to Pennsylvania was, in part, to visit with some of those same people we met that year.
We in no way claim to be experts in the Amish and Mennonite way of life, but my children had learned a lot from first had conversations and friendships.
Our Buggy Ride Story
As we were on the ride, the driver tried to be helpful and give them tidbits of information about the Amish community. However, many of the things he was saying did not align with what my children knew to be true.
Some of these inconsistencies may be the result of different congregations having different rules and practices. (Think about assuming that every church in America used the same songs or style.) However, he was claiming that everyone followed those same practices. Other things were misconceptions or misunderstandings.
I did not want to be confrontational or disrespectful to the driver. We felt that he was sharing the best information he knew. We also know that we are not experts and did not want to make that claim. However, we had a good family discussion about what the children heard and learned once we finished the ride.
It became a great object lesson in considering their sources. The man who did buggy tours for a living might not seem like a poor source, but using a first-hand source was a much better option. They realized their friends who talked with them about their real lives knew more than someone watching from the outside.
We talked about how we should remember that with many things in life:
reading the Bible instead of trusting someone else’s words,
listening to what people say instead of listening to rumors or clips in the news,
primary source documents versus other people’s interpretation of history.
I hope that they will remember that they need to carefully weigh the source of information and check what they hear against what they know to be true throughout their lives.
Have you had any experiences where you could teach your children to consider their sources as they formed beliefs and opinions?
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