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Five Finger Lesson

“May your ‘five finger lesson’ be valuable to you throughout your school day and when you go home.”                                                                            (McGuffey’s 1881)


The “five finger lesson” in McGuffey’s Primer of 1881 started with the thumb of truthfulness, then came the forefinger of honesty, followed by the middle finger of punctuality, the ring finger of cleanliness, and finally the pinky finger of kindness. What an easy way to remember character qualities as a little child!

McGuffey Readers were found in American classrooms beginning in the middle of the 1800’s and carrying through to the middle of the 20th century. McGuffey’s Primer of 1881 focused on more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Teachers of that time knew instinctively that the whole person was of great importance, and that simply knowing how to calculate figures or read a book or sign one’s name were only the beginnings of wisdom for their young charges. Souls were valued and teaching biblical lessons to children in the classroom was as natural as teaching them to spell. It was all part of leading them in the right direction for a good life:

Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Many children are blessed with physical ability that shines on the court or ball field. Other children are gifted in music, making melody on instruments or through singing enjoyed by all ages, others still are gifted in academics and will go on to be great doctors, scientists, and scholars. But more important and beneficial than all of these God-given gifts is the character within a child’s heart, for it will lead them in one direction or the other. May we teach them to seek God’s wisdom.

About Lisa

My husband Dan and I have three children and three grandchildren. We live in central Illinois. I am a graduate of The Institute of Children's Literature, a member of faithwriters.com, and a member of SCBWI. My writings have been published at chirstiandevotions.us, in DevotionMagazine, the PrairieWind Newsletter, and here at thebottomline.co.

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