Category Archives: Sarah

Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 3

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Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 3

Missed the first 2 posts? Check them out here: Part 1, and here, Part 2.

One of the hardest things about teaching your children the gospel is that, unlike an adult who has never heard of Christ, they don’t always have that “Ah HA!” Lightbulb moment where the gospel makes all kinds of sense, and they just respond then and THERE!
Mostly it is a slow and laborious process where we teach it to them over and over and over and OVER again. It begins with us understanding their sin nature, and more importantly, that they understand their own sin nature. It is harder to tell a 2 year old who is in a state of 24/7 denial, that they are sinners, than it is to tell a remorseful 5 year old, who has only recently discovered that their actions have consequences. Often, difficult, and heartbreaking ones.

But we never know when their heart is tender, so we must preach the gospel to them

Every.

Single.

Day.

But how can we do this? At one point I thought “My kids will get tired of me beginning each morning with a recitation of Bible stuff they need to know.”
It isn’t as literal as all that. Best time to teach the gospel to your child? When their heart is soft, and their conscience is pricked, and if your children are as inherently sinful as mine, it will happen daily. At least. Not to say that every child is sorry every time they take their sister’s cookie, but that, in a moment, with the proper instruction, they will be sorry. And not in a mean “YOU’LL be SORRY!” kind of way either.
Here, let me tell you a story.
My daughter, Emma, is a sweet little girl. She loves others with a deep heartfelt kind of love. She is unique in every way, and the way she looks at the world is, well, different, but it is exactly what makes her so special and lovable. One Sunday, when she was particularly happy to be attending church, we sat in our pew, and the service commenced as normal. We sang together, she colored on her bulletin, and the children’s service was lovely. As soon as the children re-entered our pew, to settle in for the sermon, there was a scuffle over something tiny. I forget what, probably a patch of neutral pew that had a… ahem… territory dispute? Emma was upset, so she asked to move. I let her move. She sat next to Sarah, when another dispute arose. She asked to sit with Daddy, and I promptly moved her. Within 30 seconds, she was crying, loudly, to sit with Sarah again. At 5, she understands to be quiet, calm, and respectful during church. I took this moment to remind her that she is expected to, and often does a fine job of, sitting beautifully, coloring quietly. Today, She did not.
“I WANT to sit with SARAH. NOW!”
I told her to calm down, and just sit beside Daddy, the sermon was beginning, and handed her her coloring materials. This would not do. A hiss arose from beside me:
“NO. I will NOT sit here! I want SARAH!”
Uh oh. A no had escaped her lips. I will calmly deal with many things, but when my children say no to a direct instruction that is not only understandable, and normal, but within the scripture’s scope (think of others as higher than yourself = be quiet in church, please.  Or: Be gracious in your speech= do not hiss at Mom.) all bets are off.
I informed Emma, this would not do, and we left the service.

It wasn’t calm, pleasant, or easy. She cried, and cried some more, about how she wanted to sit with Sarah. She yelled at me, she hissed at me, she said some not very nice things. But we sat, in the van, while I nursed Isaiah. After a long time, must’ve been only 10 minutes, but it seemed an eternity, she began to calm down.  She was still crying, that she hadn’t gotten her way, but she was beginning to see that she had done wrong.
“Emma, what did you do, that I had to leave the service with you?”
“I was being loud. And I disobeyed you. I was bad.”
Tender heart. Tender soul.
Cue the gospel. The tender heart is there, the remorse is there. Repentance is a real, tangible thing in this moment.
This was my springboard. In the 5 minutes we had left, my sad, remorseful little girl had a firsthand lesson on unconditional love, sin as separation from God, repentance and what it means, and how Jesus can wash away our sin, because of God’s plan.
This can be as simple, or as elaborate as your child needs, but the simplest terms, for the littlest ones are this:

  1. You did wrong. (You took your brother’s toy, stealing is wrong.)
  2. Are you sorry?
  3. Then say you are sorry. (To God first for breaking his law. Then to your brother, and I)
  4. Jesus took your eternal punishment. (God is not angry with you anymore,  because Jesus died on the cross to pay for stealing.)
  5. God forgives you, and he loves you even more than Mommy does. He can change your heart, if you believe that Jesus died and rose again to “win” against sin.

I know, simple, but every time your child disobeys, is a perfect time to bring them straight to God. The first offense is not against me for disobedience of house rules (stealing) Or even their brother for stealing. Their first offense is to a holy God, who hates sin, and justly, must discipline us for sinning.

Bring them straight to his feet to apologize there first. When they are at ease with their conscience, then to you, and then their sibling.

Teaching them the gospel is a 4 step process. 1. Sin separates me from God,  2. I know MY sin is deserving of God’s anger. 3. God has a way to forgive me. (Jesus) 4. I need to ask for his help, and believe (have faith) he can, and will change my heart.

But how do I know my child is saved? Well. You don’t. Hard to hear, but I can’t tell you how many times my children have walked through this with me. I figure, I will know they are saved when their behavior begins changing to reflect a change in their heart. When the Holy Spirit works in there, and it is clear to them, without my prompting, that they cannot earn salvation on their own, but that it is a gift of grace, through faith. Meanwhile, my job is to teach them: Sin separates, God loves, Jesus died and rose again, to “win”, we must repent, and believe.

Most importantly, we must model the gospel for them. Pray with them, Pray for them, show them your response to God and the gospel. Every. Single. Day.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, I don’t even play one on TV, check what I’ve said here against God’s Word. Go with God’s word, every time. It is right when I am wrong. And if you find scripture that conflicts with what I’ve written here, please share.

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In Response- A Baby Story

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I thought longBABYFEET ISAIAH and hard about this particular post, and was quite inspired by Life In A Shoe’s Q & A post today, and the digging I did through her linked posts, particularly her Quiverfull, and Quiverfull follow up posts. I thought she handled a controversial subject with class, and honesty. And since I have a similar subject on my heart and mind, I shall forge on, and attempt to write with a sensitive heart, to the thoughts and feelings of others, while expressing my own.

So, Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook:
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There is a story behind why this photo is so important to me, and why I felt the need to share it on my facebook page.

I have felt a renewed passion for the Pro Life Cause since the Gosnell Trial.  In this high stakes case, I was reminded of my past, and what it very easily could have been.
I was a teen pregnancy. My husband and I got pregnant, after our engagement. I will never forget the anxiety of anticipating the responses of my family and friends. I was 18 at the time. I was staring at a future with no job, no health insurance (My Dad’s had discontinued me, and I had the choice to buy a VERY expensive COBRA plan.) and single motherhood.I did go to a pregnancy center, because I was scared. What made things more difficult was the fact that I knew the woman who was counseling there, and she knew my Mother. I was terrified she would tell her. But, I had a negative pregnancy test, and after a stern talking to, and a reassurance that she would stick with their confidentiality rules, I left.
A week later, I had a positive home test at a friend’s house. We prepared to tell my parents the news. I was terrified. I will never forget their faces. My Dad’s jaw dropped. My Mother’s face went white. They couldn’t speak. I could see the anger brewing in my Dad, bubbling silently. We left as quickly as we could, knowing that my Dad had to leave for a weekend camping trip. Unbeknownst to all of us, God had a pretty awesome plan for all of us in this timing. My Father ended up meeting a friend of a friend who came along. And when he shared what had happened prior to leaving, this man shared about his past as an unexpected and inconvenient baby. He encouraged my Father to support me, and my then boyfriend, to do the right thing. He reminded my Dad of the blessing that was already present in the life of this child. He told my Dad that good CAN come of such a situation.
All of us knew at this point, from the very beginning, that abortion just wasn’t an option. All of the anxiety, the fear, the uncertainty, it didn’t matter, this baby had a right to life.

And thus began the journey of 2 years, where my husband and I fought for a blessing. My parents, my friends, my family, all fought for one too. People in my Parent’s church barred my Dad from leadership because of my sin.

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Sarah, Allen, and I at our wedding.

I will never forget the hurt in my best friend’s voice when I called her. But she stood beside me through it all, despite the loss of a future we’d dreamed of. All of the normal dreams of college age girls with their lives before them. She lost that to the reality of my early Motherhood. I lost that normal young adult beginning, and jumped right into tough adulthood. So did my husband.

Initially I fought for a job that could provide something more than the COBRA I managed to get initially, and at a lower cost. My husband was in college, and to finish his degree we delayed our wedding, and lived with our parents for 2 more years. I will be ever grateful for their sacrifice on our behalf, and for our daughter. Without their support, we would have been homeless. It wasn’t easy for anyone.
2 years after we told our parents we were pregnant, we were able to get married, and to secure an apartment. Then we dealt with the baggage of having began our relationship as husband and wife with all of this past trailing behind.

The point I’m making is that in no way was it ever easy. But we knew that because of the choices we made, we had to give this precious little girl a chance at life. However hard the beginning was. And yes, we STILL have baggage from all of this. This kind of sin DOES cause lifelong changes. Even for our daughter. I still don’t know how we will handle the day when she asks us, as a teenager, why we didn’t wait.

Was it hard? Yep. Do I regret one moment of our journey onward? Absolutely not. I know that we made the right choice, difficult as it was. Does it define me?weddingbandw To a point. What defines me more is the fact that we chose what we did because of Christ’s influence on our lives, however faint it was then, in our estimation. He was working in ways we did not know. But I do know this. I COULD have had an abortion. There, but for the Grace of God, go I. The only reason I didn’t? God’s divine mercy and grace. The only thing that kept me from that was him. Not me. God. By his sovereign will, it did not occur. I do know women who have had abortions, and I do know that they have told me of the forgiveness and mercy they receive despite their choices. God hasn’t rejected them entirely. After all, didn’t he use Moses after he murdered the Egyptian? Or Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul, the biggest apologist of the New Testament, and missionary who spread the gospel to Europe? Paul knew that it wasn’t him, but Christ in him, who accomplished those things. God can redeem us from our past, and use us for his Glory, and he can forgive us in the process. His Word speaks so awesomely of how he forgives, and I know he has forgiven me of my past.

Ava and Mommy

Ava and Mommy, roughly 2 years ago.

So why all of this? And why the title: In Response? Because after I posted that picture, I think that a relative of mine was hurt, and angry, by what I had said. To her I say, I love you, and I am sorry if I hurt you.
This story is why I posted that photo. And do not think I think less of you for disagreeing with what I put on my facebook wall. I love you anyway.
I post what I do on there, and on here, because it is part of who I am. It is part of my journey of sanctification. God has done amazing things in my life, and how CAN I stand silent? I just can’t. I don’t wish to hurt people, but sometimes, when we speak out loud about what we feel most passionate about, it can strike a chord in someone’s heart, and yes, it can hurt.

I post what I do to encourage, not to hurt. To say, No matter what your choices past, God has a future. I resisted that future for years. I ran away from it. Told him to buzz off. And the more I ran away from it, the more discontent, angry, hurt, and awful I felt.

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Sarah and Emma with their AWANA awards

Especially when someone told me God’s Word. Boy did it rub me the wrong way! I can’t convince anyone of his power, his grace, his mercy, and for all I know, this will anger some folks even further. But it isn’t my job to change the transparency of what God is doing here in my heart, my home. It is my job to keep living, aligning every area of life with his Word. The rest is up to him. How he uses it. As a result of our past, my husband and I felt convicted by God’s Word. EVERY child is a blessing, and we will take each one given to us, and we will love them, and nurture them, and teach them his word. And we know this will, and has, offended some. Pictures on facebook notwithstanding. Our lives have, by their very nature, become a declaration of God’s work in them.

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The two Dudes, Allen and Isaiah.

Now, that does NOT mean we are perfect, or that we speak for God in any way. We still sin, we still make wrong choices, and have not arrived in any way. Not until we go to Heaven will we have “arrived” And even then, that will be by God’s Grace. I am sorry if my sin has hurt you.

I also have come to realize that the more God works, the more others will respond to what he does. Some with wonder, with anger, with hate, with love, or with a searching heart. I can’t control their response. I can point them one way. To God. Read his word, see what he says, and discuss your heart with him, anger, searching, whatever is on it.

With Love,
Liz

Teaching Character

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gaurd your heart  My Dad spent a large portion of my childhood trying to convince me that Proverbs was worth reading. I found it dull, and discombobulated. As an adult, I see it in an entirely different light. As a homeschooling parent, I routinely avoid character training curriculum, because who needs to buy one when God has provided us with a fabulous one, courtesy of Proverbs?
I remember hearing a quote along the line of ‘If my child knows academics better than Proverbs, we have focused on the wrong things.”
I believe this quote is wise, because I know in my life, I use Proverbs far more than I use any of the concepts I learned in all of those math lessons I was  subjected to  given the pleasure of learning.

My own relationship with the book of Proverbs as an adult is quite different than as a child. I read it daily, in conjunction with the date. I have found that by reading it with my children, each day, each Proverb holds a practical application of God’s Word that develops a new character trait worthy of cultivation. This week, a few gems jumped out at me.

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3, ESV)
This one from yesterday is my theme Proverb, for life. I constantly open my mouth wide!  I jump in haste to say things because I feel the burning urge to share what I am thinking. I can’t say how mWelsprings of lifeany times this has gotten me into all sorts of trouble. When we read this proverb yesterday, my daughter and I both looked at each other, convicted by its words. I know that we are our children’s parents, and not their friends, but in some ways, friendship and accountability fosters open honesty in parent/child relationships. When Sarah and I both feel convicted by something, we act together. We agreed to challenge each other on this matter, both of us knowing firsthand the destruction that follows wide lips.

Today, we were convicted, but I was encouraged:

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Proverbs 14:26-27

The Fear of the Lord is mentioned so much in Proverbs, as the beginning of wisdom, the basis for prosperity, happiness, all sorts of things. Fearing God, being righteous, these things add to our lives. This was a wonderful follow up to yesterday’s Wellspringsoflifebookburning conviction. We have hope in God. That hope is not just in a non tangible spiritual relationship, but in the fact that here, now, Christ reigns. This spiritual healing, grace, and forgiveness extends to the real now. To the tangible world. The Fear of the Lord affects me tangibly. It orders my steps, it keeps my paths straight, it gives prosperity, life, in short, good things.

We can find hope in God, his Word, his principles, in his mercy and Grace, because he begins his work here and now, and it affects every area of our lives for the better. It not only helps us, but our children as well. I can’t tell you how many times an argument has been stopped short by: “A Fool gives full vent to his anger.”  We want to be wise, righteous, blessed. And Proverbs wisely reminds us that when our heart is in the right place, our lives will follow, tangibly. “Above all else, guard your heart, For out of it are the wellsprings of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Confessions of a “SuperMom”

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Since Isaiah has been born, I have struggled more than I thought with adding child no. 4. In fact, I have struggled so much, that I momentarily wondered if there might not be *some* kind of out for our procreational commitment to allow God to determine the size of our family, and the number of our blessings. Not that I didn’t think every child was a blessing, but that it became increasingly harder to smile sincerely and respond kindly when folks at the grocery store smirked and said “Boy, your hands are FULL!” while I walked past with my 4 children, Isaiah (6 weeks) screeching that newborn wail, Emma (4) whining for a drink, Sarah (6) making silly faces at Ava, and Ava (2) having a full on tantrum on the grocery store floor. Somehow, human nature allows these failures to leave a more lasting mark than the 5 successful trips for every 1 failure. During these moments, my policy has always been to leave immediately, but unfortunately, this does not curtail the smirking strangers.

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Our new normal

One example of a recent “failure moment” happened just yesterday. While taking Sarah to her tooth extraction at the Oral surgeon, my Mother graciously agreed to take my two middle children (6am not being a friendly time of day to leave the house with 4 kids under 6 AND retain my sanity.) and I went there with Isaiah strapped to my front snugly, and waited impatiently in the waiting room for my oldest to complete her first “surgery” and wake up from anesthesia.
Upon finding out I had four children total, during my nervous blatherings., one of the receptionists shook her head at me, smiling, and said “You must be SuperMom.” Here, I had a potential ego boost that I had to put in perspective. Just a few short months ago, with three impeccably behaved children, I would have responded to this situating with feigned humility while patting myself on the back privately. Funny how your pride becomes all too apparent after you’ve fallen on your rear enough times.
This time, I felt immediately inadequate to answer her, a little ashamed, in fact. Mostly, because, this “SuperMom” didn’t even change her 6 year old out of her Pjs for the surgery, OR her newborn baby out of his (Don’t worry I DID change his diaper! Haha!)  In fact, I barely slapped on some sweatpants, a t-shirt, sneakers, and stuffed my Lilla Rose Flexi Clip and Lipgloss  in my pocket for easy elegance that could be completed in the space of one stoplight.  Isaiah had also, in fact, had a blow out in his diaper while Sarah was being medicated, and I forgot to bring a change of shirt. So I was also covered in baby poo. I felt like anything BUT a SuperMom. I even felt a momentary twinge of sadness that the only thing needed for “Super Mom” status in this case, was the number of children I have.  I wanted to feel justified in being called “Super Mom, ” and as proud of that title as I had felt when I had three children, but considering the past 6 weeks, and how very hard it has been to get back to being just a Mom and a Wife, I had nothing good to reply with. So I lamely mumbled that I didn’t feel like SuperMom, and then gratefully rushed off when the nurse called out “Is Sarah’s Mom in here? She is awake!”

Thinking on that moment later, I felt like it was a missed opportunity. I feel this burden on my shoulders, one that grows with each child God adds to our family. A burden to not only appear to be perfect, but in so doing, to prove the value in large family living. So many people in our lives, strangers, friends, some family, think we are certifiably NUTS not to take Birth Control. In fact, I recently had an exchange with my OB that went like this:
Dr: “So, what are you doing for birth control now.”
Me: “I don’t do birth control.”
Dr: “Yes, I know, you just had a baby, so what will you do now?”
Me: “I don’t believe in birth control.”
Dr. (incredulous.) “So what will you DO for birth control?!”
Me: Nothing.
Dr.: “Well what will you DO?!”
Me: “Be the next Duggars?”

The student observer standing behind me snickered at that moment, giving some much needed levity to the situation. But the point is clear. We must be CRAZY. These kinds of moments have led to putting this burden on me, and admittedly, my children every time we go into public. I feel like we must “represent” for large families. Be a shining example of how great they are. My own daughter challenged that thought just before her surgery when she said to me, “But why must WE convince everyone it is nice to be in a large family?” Ouch. Ok, I really don’t know the answer to that one. And, I had a sudden epiphany that perhaps in trying to be our “best” in public, I’m breeding a sort of nasty hypocrisy. We don’t need to be our “best” and always present only one side of large family life. We don’t need to be ashamed either when we don’t measure up to a “perfect” ideal on our own steam. With one approach, we alienate others by our artificial perfection and obvious pride in our own work. With the other, we publicly negate God’s work in our lives, by an exaggerated sense of humility, or shame.
We need to be real. We struggle. At least, I do. It is HARD work being a large family, and I don’t even think we qualify yet! I think that officially is reached at 5 or 6 kids… technically, anyway. Maybe rather than teaching my kids we need to be a walking commercial, I need to teach my children that we need to be a walking example of God’s grace. Tantrums do happen. And they happen in stores. They aren’t ok, and they aren’t good, and they are VERY annoying to other customers, but maybe the example of handling it Biblically, and gracefully, even under pressure, is far more powerful than being “perfect.”

So here is my “Super Mom” confession. I struggle too, and by God’s grace, THAT is how I am a Mom of a “large” family. I am not super, Christ works despite my failure to BE “Super Mom.”

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20, ESV)

Curriculum hunting

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Emma (4) and Sarah (6) at the kids Creation Seminar run by Answers in Genesis.

Homeschooling appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about homeschooling is that it is FLEXIBLE! I love that one day we can do back to back doctor appointments, and another we can stay home and learn there. My children’s learning doesn’t suffer from this, in fact, it often benefits! They have the benefits of multiple social situations and master teachers. (Who better to teach my children about the structure of the eye than our Optometrist?) But they also have the benefit of relaxed days, and a comfortable classroom. I want my children to think that although we must be diligent in completing our tasks, we can be creative in completing them too! Who says I have to wash the dishes grimfaced and snarling? I can sing and dance instead! Who says we have to do school uncomfortable and forced? We can have fun and explore instead!
One of the first places to start in this, something I am still tweaking as we go, is the area of curriculum! Some parents thrive on routine and predictability, and if that is the case, I would recommend a boxed curriculum with a teacher’s manual and lesson plans. I am the opposite. A seat of the pants kinda gal. I cobble together curriculum until I get everything just right. I am not a fan of across the board choices. So I find what curriculum I like in one subject, and supplement it with something fun. I prefer basic and thorough curriculum that uses a mastery concept. This way I can apply it in real time using real life situations and experiences to reinforce what they are already learning in their books. I’d rather be done with book work by lunch, and then spending the rest of the day learning incognito, than spending all day with our noses in books, tears pouring out in frustration!

So if you don’t want to go the boxed curriculum way, and you’re a seat of the pants kinda Mom or Dad, how can you cobble together a curriculum? Simply stated, do your research. Find out how your child learns, take your schedule into consideration. Do you need a mobile curriculum? Do you have a LOT of outside opportunities set up for your kids that can supplement something basic and simple? Or do you need a curriculum that covers everything in one book? After you’ve determined what kind you need, go for it! Ebay has a lot of books for good prices if you can snag them. We gambled on McGuffy’s Readers and bought a WHOLE set on there for a steal of $30ish dollars! But, now we have chosen that as our reading curriculum for several years now. At least for 6 years, maybe longer! Understand that if you choose this route, you may or may not have access to teacher’s manuals, you may have to plan lessons to fill in areas you feel are scanty, or in areas that your child needs extra instruction and reinforcement. Also know that you may have to tweak things year by year until you find things you like. We may have McGuffy’s for reading, but we will be adding Easy Grams, and perhaps English From The Roots Up. As the children grow older, so will our curriculum. We will add and adjust with them. It can grow in books, or experiences, or in any way that it works! That is the beauty of customizing!
Here is how our curriculum looked this year, and may look next year, with a few adjustments:

For reading, we use McGuffy’s Readers for formal instruction and supplement it with books or phonics programs (Dr. Suess, Little Bear, Peter Rabbit, Starfall website for phonics support.)

The girls making dough ornaments.

For Math, we are currently using an online website called IXL, but I am not satisfied, so next year we may just do Horizons. After 3rd grade, we are considering The Life of Fred. For now we’ve been supplementing IXL by applying the concepts we’ve learned online with in home situations. Measuring fractions for cooking, using an abacus to add, subtract, or make calculations for home needs, like how many grapes each child should get, etc. Also, paying for and calculating the price of objects when shopping.`

We are really liking “History for Little Pilgrims” for our history this year. We supplement this with social studies situations,

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Tea Party!

such as watching Rand Paul Filibuster in real time, or taking part in a community service project etc. We also do a geography element to this, learning about our state, our country, and using real life experiences to educate the children about other cultures and languages. This multi-cultural experience is organic and natural.

For science we are members of the Da Vinci Science Center, we can go there any time for hands on fun, we also use the book “The World God Made” by E.J. Shewan. We also supplement by going to any seminar we can find that includes our children’s grade levels.

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Emma, climbing a tree.

Another way to apply science year round is our plethora of pets to care for (rabbits, cat, and fish) and our organic vegetable garden, and mini fruit orchard in our backyard.

For health and wellness, we use doctor’s well checks as unit studies. We pick body parts and study how they function and what they do. We’ve enjoyed opportunities to do so in depth with Da Vinci Center’s Bodies Revealed exhibit. One of the girls also received a really cool body toy that one can remove the internal organs and replace them. It came with a booklet that describes the functions of each organ. Of course, a lot of outside play is involved, and this year, since I was pregnant, we did a constant study on how Mommy’s body works to bring life into the world. We studied how the baby grew each month, watched videos of what was happening in the womb, and learned all about the miracle of birth. (Age appropriately of course!) This will have a more formal curriculum as they grow, but now while they are young, visiting our doctor, and talking about how our bodies work, spending time daily to discuss nutrition and healthy practices, in hygiene (brushing teeth) or in diet, or in activities, we make this a part of everyday life.

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Emma (4) at the Lyons Fiddle Festival listening to some prime fiddlers!

For music and art we do a variety of projects, crafts, (all by the seat of our pants!) Lots of play doh play, We have a series of CD’s on the classical masters, each has examples of their most famous music, and a narrated biography fit in throughout the CD. We also do field trips like the Lyons Fiddle Festival, and Band or Orchestra concerts. None of this is from a formal curriculum, it is just LIFE! I love that.

We do not use a formal Bible program. This is something we do on our own too. Sola Scriptura is a great way to go! We take times to memorize scripture together for AWANA, and every day we review the Proverb of the day. (We use this website, and often listen to the devotional of the day, but I don’t like how they cherry pick scripture for the devotional, so we don’t use that every day.) The goal is that within a year of doing this, each child will know the Proverbs well, or perhaps even by heart. This is an excellent character building program, as throughout the day we apply the Proverb we read! Next year we may do something else, like a daily reading of the gospels, or a jaunt through Genesis. The point is to have them reading scripture. We are strongly considering a program of reading the Bible in a year, to expose them to the whole work of God. I have yet to find a program that suits my idea of doing so chronologically, but that is not overwhelming for little ones to sit through. (All of ours are 6, 4, 2, 1 month, presently)

It is very easy to cobble together your own curriculum if you choose. It can be cheaper, and more eclectic! This way you can customize it to meet your child’s needs, and to educate children of multiple ages at once. We LOVE field trips, because each child, no matter their age, takes away an age appropriate experience. Same thing with Bible programs, or Home Economics.

The best part is when the whole family participates side by side,the older ones helping the younger, and the younger’s questions challenging the older. Homeschooling just naturally provides a multi faceted approach to learning.

This time of year is perfect for considering curriculum options. Better to prayerfully consider now, than to have to change mid year, or have to buy things last minute during the summer. Once we buy programs we like, we will probably use them for child after child, handing them down as each child reaches the next level. Buying new books for our oldest at this juncture is also handy, in case she finishes her current book, and still needs to continue on.

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Our Kempton train ride field trip! Looking out the window of the caboose!

Happy Curriculum hunting!

Motherhood is Humbling

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There is nothing like the ahumilitypostavabandwrrival of a new baby to set your world spinning around and around until you are forced to realize: Motherhood is humbling.

My first jolt back to that reality was seeing my postpartum pictures. Cute kid, but who is that awful looking lady holding him?! Ack! THAT IS ME?! Yuck.

But there were more substantial reminders that while managing three kids had become a piece of cake for this Mama, God is NOT done with me yet! Sanctification continues.

I found the most humbling moments in these two experiences:
The other day one of my daughters had been especially exasperating in a new set of behavioral difficulties. I was frustrated, and at the end of my rope. Having a new baby is an adjustment for everyone, but adjustment or no, there was no excuse for her behavior! I was having a hard time reining her in. So I asked for advice from Moms I knew, My Mom, etc, and even some Mommybloggers. (Shout out to 4 Moms, 35+ Kids!) I still made no progress in helping her to curb her disrespectful behavior. I was getting rolling eyes, talking back, and exasperated rude responses. Then one day, this very child walks in while I was putting 2 of her younger siblings to sleep. She wanted to show me something she made. My immediate response was to roll my eyes and respond with “Well what is it? I’m putting your sister and brother down for a nap!”

Yikes.

It was me. How could I expect her to stop a behavior that I wasn’t even recognizing, let alone dealing with in myself? What a humbling moment. I felt awful instantly. I apologized to her and told her to please come back later.  It wasn’t a while until I was able to confess my full sins to her. It takes a lot to tell your child you’ve been wrong. I started half a dozen times only to put it off. Another sin of mine, pride, was staring me right in the face. Motherhood is truly humbling.

Then, yesterday, my husbaIsaiahnd called me on his lunch break, telling me “I forgot to pay some bills! And I never deposited that check… Could you handle it for me?” I was excited to show my husband I was getting back in my super prepped Mommy groove, and I could handle an emergency. Of COURSE I could handle it! “It” required a trip to the bank, and a trip to another bank to pay both bills. No problem, this was a piece of cake with 3 kids! Should be nothing with 4!
Wrong. Oh so wrong.

Instead: I grabbed some PB and J and…. uhm, what else is there? Carrots. Ok… whipped everyone into (semi decent) shape, and headed off into the sunset, wipes on hand for the inevitable peanut butter faces. We started the whole adventure off with an incident in the parking lot. Someone made a break for a puddle in a high traffic area, and I began the whole outing with a screech: “DON’T run there!”
There ended up being no cars in the parking lot, and the child in question responded instantly, and went back to her “spot”, never having been in any real danger,  and so all was fine, but I think this was the first indicator I was in over my head.  Before I had to juggle a toddler and an infant in exiting the car, she never would have even dreamed of making a move for that puddle.
Inside both banks the children ran around in circles or bounced nervously on the chairs while I signed papers. During the rest of our errands there was a lot of angst in the back seat, with everyone hitting the naptime wall, including me. We went home, nobody the worse for wear, but my pride having taken a few fatal blows, the whole drive home was dominated by Isaiah’s expressions of discomfort and disapproval after our long afternoon in the minivan hopping from place to place.

I had been at that place most of us go to when we’ve been “successful” in our christian walk. We begin to (erroneously) assume our hard work is paying off. But we forget
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Galatians 2:20, ESV)
We begin to trust in the law alone, and forget the all important work of the Holy Spirit in our heart, our home. Without God’s all consuming work in us, the law does nothing.  As I’ve heard said before (I think Rushdoony said it) ” The law does not justify, it sanctifies.” I had forgotten that truth, and began to feel as if I had conquered my sinful nature, and was fully capable of addressing my children’s shortcomings as well. But I’m not sufficient on my own. If anything, my knowledge of the law should inform me of how very deficient I am, and how much I need God’s righteousness. (Romans 7:7)

And so armed with this new dose of humility, I am reminded of many things. Firstly, without God’s Word, change is impossible, and without the Holy Spirit, lasting, sincere change is a lost cause. Time to get back to the Word of God with a humbled spirit.

humilitypostmomandemmasnuggling  To know wisdom and instruction,

to understand words of insight,

to receive instruction in wise dealing,

in righteousness, justice, and equity;

to give prudence to the simple,

knowledge and discretion to the youth—

Let the wise hear and increase in learning,

and the one who understands obtain guidance,

to understand a proverb and a saying,

the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:2-7, ESV)

I can’t make my chilhumilitypostsarahemmadren wise on my own, I can’t make my children well behaved on my own, and I can’t cause them to be their best, but I can introduce them to the God who sanctifies me daily, changes me as only he can, and provides me with the wisdom to meet many things head on. I can’t claim any of that goodness for myself, but I can lead them straight to the wisdom from God’s Word that does not return void. I can obey God’s command (Duet. 6) and teach them daily as I walk with Christ. And I can trust in his ability to bring lasting change to their hearts, minds, and lives. In the end, my failure riddled parenting isn’t enough for them, but the sufficiency of scripture in informing their wisdom and decisions, and the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives is something I can trust in to overcome my own sins and shortcomings.

Sibling Conflicts From Matthew 18 Weekly Goals: Part 2

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Sibling Conflicts From Matthew 18 Weekly Goals: Part 2

So since I got a bit long winded yesterday, I turned this into a 2 parter to discuss this week’s goals. This past week, Raising Olives had a question and answer post. In this post she linked to another, older post of hers, on solving sibling squabbles. This is an issue that grows as they grow! And I was beginning to wonder, if like in many other areas of life, I’ve allowed bad habits to form. I have it much easier with Ava, and Isaiah, because with these two, we are starting from scratch. I don’t have to break a bad habit and replace it, I just start a good habit. This has been proven in Ava’s response to things which I found terribly difficult with Sarah. When you expect specific things from a young age, children have a way of rising to the occasion! When you expect it suddenly at an older age, they (as we adults sometimes do!) have a much harder time of making it a normal behavior. Change is HARD! But, in this case, change is necessary! Sibling squabbles can’t continue as they have, or things will deteriorate as more kids arrive into the Sacks Brood! Must. Get. A. Handle. On. This. NOW!

Now, second lesson I’ve learned is I never have a handle on ANYTHING! This is where God comes in. First thing to do? Get on my knees. I know the particular passage that Raising Olives mentioned in her post: Matthew 18. In fact, I’ve quoted it a lot myself in other quarrels with adults, and issues within my extended family. My husband and I have discussed it at length in solving issues with others when it comes to disagreements over life choices. (and believe me, we have PLENTY of those! Lately we’ve become quite a lightning rod for that. But that is another story!) I never, oddly, considered it as a principle to teach my young children. This is where I find I failed in the early years of mothering. Applying scripture correctly, on their level, and faithfully. But at that time in my life, scripture was only referenced when it was useful, and inspirational. Time to roll my sleeves up, and apply scripture liberally!

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So how can we apply Matthew 18 to our little girls, 6, 4, and 22 months?

Well. First we read it. A friend recommended ESV for little kids, the language is clear, concise, and doesn’t lose its weight in trying to be simple either.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17

We break it down, often right when it is most applicable. I started this week, and am already noticing an uptick in peaceful negotiations! 🙂

It goes like this:

Sarah: BUT I WANT THAT TOY!

Emma: But I want it TOO!

We stop, separate, and often, I encourage some kind of positive physical contact with somebody. Me, or the other child. If it is especially heated, they are encouraged to hold hands with me. This might change as they get older, but when they are little, it has an instant calming effect. The toy in question is set in a neutral place until the argument is settled. It acts as a motivation to settle.

We start with confrontation. “What is your problem with your sister?” Each child takes a turn stating their issue. The other child is asked to consider it in terms of selflessness, not selfishness. If we’re still resisting, often we quote this scripture at this point: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

If there are other sin issues, a stolen toy for example, those are also dealt with immediately, the offending child is asked to state what the Biblical law is on that point. Should we hurt? Should we Steal? What does God say? Often, this reminder is enough to solve the issue on the spot. The offending child hands the toy over, apologizes, and they are encouraged to hug or otherwise comfort the other crying sibling.

We’ve also asked each child to apologize when sin is present. I have been told many times in my teaching days that forcing a child to apologize is wrong. But the Bible has a different standard than the world. In some cases of law, apology isn’t even enough! Restitution is needed. If a child repeats the offense of stealing, in some cases, they will be asked to provide restitution. (You took her toy, now you must give hers back, AND one of yours.”) If that doesn’t stop the stealing in its tracks, we take time alone together to address the heart issue, maybe it is envy, covetousness, and I try to be aware of what that child is doing constantly.

Part of the apology process is the healing. A quick hug, a word of forgiveness, and all is over, and everyone happily returns to play. If we still have some petulance on one side or another, it still isn’t resolved, and we move back to square one. Oddly enough, Although Ava needs constant prompts, and nudges to properly complete an argument, Sarah and Emma have caught on quickly, and do attempt to solve it themselves in some cases. 50% of the time I am not asked, and don’t need to intervene. If they can’t solve it on their own following these steps, they come and get me, and ask me. (Getting a third party, as per verse16) Usually then, before I go and intervene, the child who approaches me is confronted on her sin. “What happened?” The child may tell a tale of woe where the other child will not give her a desired toy. “Are you being selfish, and putting your wants before hers?” Sometimes, that even makes my intervention unnecessary. If the problem is really a heart issue with child no. 1, it can stop there, and they play on happily.

Although every situation, every argument is different, what really blows my mind is how scripture has a principle, a word of wisdom for each one of them. It reminds me of that moment in Matthew 22 where a young lawyer tries to trap Jesus into a disregard for some portion of the law, and fails:

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)

Everything depends on loving God first, and loving your neighbor as yourself, putting their needs on par with your own. Oddly enough, almost all (in fact, I might say all) of the arguments we confront in our home have to do with either selfishness or pride, or a combination.

(Mom, you might be laughing right now, because as I type this, I can hear you saying that to us as we all sit in the back of that big van, arms folded across our chests, rolling our eyeballs at your latest mention of selfishness and pride!)

Arguments are by no means gone, or as well handled as I’d like yet (after all, we’re only a week into applying Matthew 18! Although we’ve been using restitution as a consequence for a year now, and apologies have always been expected.) We aren’t perfect, and kids struggle, just as adults do, with selfishness and sin. But using this goal as a working point, and teaching the children to meet this standard is making a difference, and I am hoping with perseverance and hard work will become a life long habit.

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Birth Story- Sarah

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Birth Story- Sarah

Over the next three weeks I’ll be doing a “Birth Stories” Series. Each Thursday one of my birth stories will be posted!  Feel free to share YOUR birth stories in the comments! Then, by March, I’ll have a whole NEW birth story posted!

First, a little Background. When I was pregnant with Sarah, I was a very young 18. I turned 19 halfway through the pregnancy, but I was terrified of being a Mom so young. As you can tell, by God’s grace, I’ve grown quite a bit  since then, and Motherhood suits me just fine! In fact, I enjoyed it so much, that since my husband I got married (slightly after Sarah’s first birthday.) we’ve managed to go on and have a few more children! Each one is a special blessing in our family, and hold a special place in our heart.

Someday I will write down our whole family testimony (in parts, it is too long to do in one post!) for you all, but until then, hopefully you enjoy the birth stories! Sarah’s is the shortest and most to the point, because my memory of it is a bit blurred due to the meds they had me on. I’ve heard stories about some of the exclamations I made regarding child birth, and women who went on to have more than one! It is funny now, but at the time I was quite scared, and quite inexperienced! As a result the entire memory of the experience is blurry, and filled with a general taste of fear. So here goes!

Our first baby, Sarah, was a week late. The Doctors didn’t want me to ruminate too long in pregnancy. I went in to be given pitocen, but thanks to weeks of “False” labor, I was already pretty far along without even knowing it! (5cm dilated.)

During the many “false labor” scares in the three weeks prior,we had a lot of runs to the hospital with nurses and doctors shaking their heads in amusement, and sending me home. But when it was for real, we were all surprised! I didn’t even feel the contractions that were registering on the machine. But, I wasn’t moving along at a fast enough pace, and so they broke my water, and gave me the pitocen.

Shortly after that the contractions were whoppers! Between contractions my husband (then fiance) and I played rummy, and just hung out. At one point in the game, exactly ONE hand from me winning (I had a decent lead.) The contractions got so bad we had to stop the game. My husband I dispute this part of the labor. I insist it was the ONLY game of Rummy I have ever beaten him at! After all, my score was higher, and we had to stop to have a baby! He maintains that since the game wasn’t completed, he maintains his tidy record of undefeated. This piece of family history may well remain in dispute until the day I die…  😉

I was determined NOT to get an epidural, but within an hour of the big bad pitocen contractions showing their faces, I was requesting it, and none too politely either… (during labor, I am not a very nice person…) I finally got the epidural, but to my chagrin, it wasn’t working! Within minutes of getting it, I had dilated to 9-10cm, and it was time to push! Within 15 minutes, Sarah was out! She was all of 9 lbs 7 oz. (Which I never let ANYONE forget!) The epidural kicked in, just in time for labor clean up. Oh the irony.

All told, that was 5 hours of labor, 15 minutes of pushing for Miss Sarah, She had GORGEOUS Red hair and BIG brown eyes.
I have a lot of toddler pictures, but not a lot of “baby pictures” on digital copies yet: Here is Sarah the toddler!

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Mom, We’re Not Arguing! We’ve… Got A Difference Of Opinion!

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However it is labeled, bickering, squabbling, fighting, brawling, dispute, altercation, rumpus (pick your favorite.) There is no shortage of them in a home with more than one child. As much as we’d all like people to believe our little angels get along well all the time, they just don’t! Part of growing up is learning how to disagree appropriately. We’d all agree that in the human experience, there is nothing more miserable than someone who argues all the time! The Bible even has a few words on the subject:

Proverbs 21:19  It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.

This morning began bright and early with a quarrel over who got to wear the pink skirt between my 4 and 5 year old girls. What amazed me (it shouldn’t I guess, I witness it frequently enough,) is how quickly it can go from just chatting to an all out brawl. 1.2 seconds and we’ve ceased chattering over how excited we are for VBS today, and begun a violent tug of war over the skirt, complete with shouting and tears. As a Mom I’m wondering how to stop this? I’ve read studies in my previous schooling that we need to give them strategies, which usually consist of some kind of negotiating skills, but I won’t even mention how I feel about THAT, because that is another blog post entirely that would be titled “Why what I learned in college about teaching children is a load of manure.” It would end with a statement about how ineffective man based strategies touting humanism that deny the Bible really don’t work, because they deny the creator. But I digress!

So my college classes have taught me nothing useful. Alright, what about what I learned working in a daycare? Those every day experiences with fighting kids? That the more I teach them to negotiate, the more nothing happens. They are children. Their first impulse is to hit and yell. Teaching them to react is doing nothing. I’m going to choose follow the Bible’s advice, after all, the Creator knows more than the created! Time to get training!

Proverbs 1:2-7 says:

for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Alright so scripture is clear, if I want to teach my children ANYTHING, I need to start by teaching them the fear of the Lord! We all know that famous Proverb of Solomon, “Train up a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It makes so much sense when it comes down to it, I train my children how to cross the street, tie their shoes, how to make their bed every morning, how to find wisdom in a scripture verse, how to listen to a sermon, and to obey Mom and Dad. Why haven’t I trained them how to properly argue? I know it is a skill that I value now in my marriage, but that the initial lack of that skill was disastrous! So what does scripture say about “contention” and “strife?”

1. Pride is the first issue to deal with! Proverbs 13:10 says: “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” First step is to teach our children the evils of pride, and to abandon self, and seek to serve others. Jesus said: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” in Mark 9:35. Philippians 2:3 says “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

2. Recognize an issue before the blowup. Proverbs 17:14 says: “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” Teach your children to mention an issue before it becomes a problem, or, with young children, be clear about boundaries. This morning’s pink skirt issue was something I should have dealt with before. My girls are in roughly the same size, and many hand-me-downs occur, so we’ve instituted the family closet. I thought this would stop arguments  about who is wearing what. So this morning they still fought about it! Pride cropped up. Generally it gets taken away and no one has it, until the argument is solved. That worked. They cry for a bit, but they move on. Teaching them to surrender the item every time a contention occurs, and THEN deal with the argument is a good way to teach them how to properly disagree, and how to submit and seek God’s opinion before asserting ours foolishly. It can be hard at first, but the more it becomes habit to surrender the contentious point, the better things are. One day at a time, right? Children stumble and sin too, this is where patience and grace come into play!

3. Confront an issue. Much like step 2, this is a more sophisticated version. Sometimes the problem isn’t material, it is emotional. An offense has occurred. Teaching them the steps of resolving conflict Biblically is a good thing. Now, I highly doubt sibling issues will end up going all the way to the church, but children learn how to work within a body in their family first. Here are the steps laid out in Matthew 18:15-17
“(a.) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (b.) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (c.) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. “  Ok so this is specific to churches, how to translate that to family life? Here is what I tell my children: (a.) If your sister has said something unkind, talk to her. Tell her what is wrong. (b.) If you can’t reach an agreement/settle the problem, BOTH of you come to me. I will listen to both sides. Then, we discuss it. It is resolved at this point more often then not. (c.) IF it continues, and is an ongoing problem, we might have a family meeting that involves DAD. Generally, they want to avoid this scenario… So we don’t reach that point often!

4. Go back to basics. Remind them often that fights and quarrels are a result of our own pride and need to win. James 4:1 says: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” Remind them that wisdom, and peace are to be found in fearing the Lord. Proverbs 28:25 says: “A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.” Remind them that God does not take kindly to a constant quarreling attitude, but he blesses peace. Romans 2:8 says: “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

5. Pursue peace. Romans 14:9 says: So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. As my Mother says “If you don’t have anything nice to say, Don’t say anything at all!”

Additional Wise sayings on the subject of strife:

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling. Proverbs 20:3

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Proverbs 15:18

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.  Proverbs 16:28

Last but not least:

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.  Proverbs 10:12
How do you practically handle arguments in your house? What works? What doesn’t? What does scripture say on the subject that strikes you?

On the Subject of Tag-Alongs

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One of my championing issues as a daycare provider was “be more involved with your kids!” In fact, while cleaning this past week I found a sign I made for an open house that said  “When you are more involved in your child’s education, your child is more involved in their education!”
I championed this because studies showed that children whose parents were more involved, tend to be more well-adjusted, learn better, retain knowledge, and apply it better to their daily lives. Children whose parents are more involved had higher grades, were less likely to be involved in crime, and the list can go on and on. It seemed like a good thing! And I saw frequently, as a part of my job, what happened when the opposite was true, when parents did NOT involve their children. Experience and education taught me that tag-alongs were more than an excellent way to keep in touch with kids, they were a great way to prepare them for life!

Now, even more than then, I find God’s Word supports this. Strong nuclear families are God’s plan for us, and isn’t that a good enough argument?  This is a classic case of secularism inadvertently proving scripture’s validity. Here is what God has to say about Nuclear families, and how they should work:

Deuteronomy 6:1-3 says:
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”

So firstly, God points out that by following his commandments, keeping his statutes, our children will be prepared to serve him. Sanctification is a blessing, and when we are in God’s Word, we know more of what he has planned for us. God makes it clear here that when he is the priority, and his Word is the priority, we enjoy the blessing of following his plan for us, and it is good!
He continues on in verses 4-7 to say this:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.   You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

It is clear in this scripture (one that is frequently quoted as parenting advice from a Biblical perspective.) that God designed the family for children to be involved, while we’re walking by the way (maybe traveling somewhere, going about our daily business… etc.) When we’re lying down, and when we rise. Our children should be taught by our most mundane actions, and our more public actions as well. They see EVERYTHING! We can’t lead by example if we’re constantly pushing them away. My inference here is that God expects us to be very involved in our children’s lives. Not marginally, VERY. Scripture has some other points that incidentally point to the value of family meals, direct instruction, etc.

Psalm 128:1-4 says:

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
    who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
    blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
    for the man who fears the Lord. “

This beautiful song of ascents points out the blessings that come of fearing the Lord, and incidentally, it points out the normalcy of a family table. Eating together, being together, is a blessing! It reminds you of what God is doing in your home.

More specifically, scripture gives us a very serious responsibility in Titus 2 to mentor the younger generation. This doesn’t start as adults, as we see above, it starts when they are very young. So as parents, we are our children’s natural Titus 2 mentor.

Titus 2:1-8 says:

“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Ok, so scripture has all these commands for us. What is the natural application of this? Here is how I apply it. (Not everyone will apply it the exact same way, but the basic application is general: Live it!)

  • We involve our children in everything! They come to the bank, the grocery store, the restaurant. We once even took them to a home closing. That was tough! We concluded that we need to be more prepared next time…  Often times to prepare them for the unique situations in which they find themselves doing all these not so “kid friendly” activities, we will discuss what is appropriate behavior, how we greet and leave someone, and also, we might change our dress. When we went to the bank, the children and I dressed in ‘business clothing.’ Oddly enough, it set the stage for better behavior. They were angels! 🙂  We also model, then send the children to do things. When we went to the Post Office to mail a letter, Sarah (5) went inside (it is a small post office in a small town, with an all window exterior, so I could see everything she was doing. I also grew up with the postmistress, so she knew Sarah well. 🙂 ) by herself and bought stamps. She did beautifully. Emma (4) went in the following week to simply put a letter in the slot. Training them how to do these simple things with courtesy, kindness, and respect is a mundane, but HUGE part of their training. They knew how to do it, because they’d been tag alongs many times before on the same task!
  • Teaching service is being of service! Sarah and Emma have seen firsthand the beauty of serving. They’ve assisted in baking pies for neighbors, delivering them, etc. They’ve helped to put boxes together for donations, cards for those in spiritual or emotional needs, etc. They roll the dough, or write their names, or help to buy donations, or even something as simple as handing out a few plates or drinks when guests enter our home.  This is already beginning to become second nature to them, at a party recently I was very surprised to turn around and find my 5 year old had volunteered to carry the tray of cake around to everyone! It was particularly sweet to see her take initiative in an act of service.
  • When we show bad examples, they mimic bad behavior. I found my young ones drawing on themselves frequently with pens. I was confronted rather innocently when I asked them to stop. “But you write on your hand, Mommy!” Even more sinister? My children watch everything I do. I was very convicted about a habit of perpetuating “little white lies” (not so little, and not so white.) when I inadvertently offended my little ones.  I also found them lying quite a bit. It ended up being more destructive when I realized, especially when it affected my children more than I thought. It is amazing how tag-alongs can end up pushing you to be more Christlike!
  • Be aware of their faith, cultivate it. I realized they watch me pray, they see the answers to prayer, and they initiate their own prayer. We’ve been praying over boo-boos, small perplexities, lost toys, etc. And then in some cases, where applicable, finding a simple verse to bear out God’s Word on the subject. It was a beautiful moment when both of the girls asked for prayer for their grandfather in church. Even more beautiful was the fact that they are aware of his needs, and that they are actively seeking God’s answer to prayer on their own. Now to teach them to trust his plan whether it suits us or not!
  • Remember the little ones. Ava, our 18 month old, is beginning already to mimic some behaviors. Often times I simply do whatever with her on my hip. As young as she is, she is watching, listening, and engaging. Sometimes I forget she is there, it is so natural to think of her as a passive observer. But no more! We’ve reached Toddler stage, and the intentional teaching has begun! Whether I know it or not! This realization came when I realized after several trips to the garden together, she already knows how to harvest certain vegetables! She watched me, and then imitated me. Looks like I have me a new tag-along!

In a nutshell, we have a unique position and responsibility to be ready at all times with an answer, in word, in deed, for our little tag alongs. We need to purposely include them in our walking, lying down, and rising up, and teach them intentionally with the wisdom of God’s Word.