Homeschooling Now blog provides encouragement for the next generation of homeschoolers. The Home School Legal Defense Assn. defends and advances the right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms.
I’ve always tried to instill in our children an understanding of and appreciation for our roots, whether it be through stories of our own family tree or stories of our country. I believe that it’s important to honor the memory of those who have gone before us, as well as to learn our lessons from history so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
It can be easier to keep these lessons alive when there is a shared common heritage and a universal understanding of the importance of preserving the memories of the past. Historical sites and reenactments, monuments, parades, and even patriotic movies that dominate the popular culture can all help reinforce this sense of historic awareness and national identity.
One of many tributes to heroes in Peru
However, what can we do to keep the lessons of the past alive when there is not a supportive community reinforcing the importance of these lessons? For instance, I’ve read several articles lately lamenting the fact that visits to historical sites are down and have been decreasing for the past many years; there seems to be a flagging interest in remembering our shared national story.
Even beyond the issue of waning attentiveness shown to our cultural history within the borders of our own country, my family is currently experiencing a bit of cultural isolation as a result of living in a different country.
Traditional garb and dances to celebrate Mothers’ Day
Peruvians take great pride in their rich history. Locals wear the colors of their flag during many of their numerous national holidays (or when following an important futbol match). Streets are named after significant dates, and parks and plazas abound with statues of local and national heroes. The map of our own hometown includes streets such as “7 de Enero” and “8 de Octubre.” Plaques and historical markers are sprinkled liberally throughout the city—and this isn’t even a famous or “touristy” town.
Peruvians wear their flag proudly.
Of course everything in Peru is all about Peru—and that represents a wonderful opportunity to learn and explore. I want to take advantage of our time here to soak up all we can about the history and culture of this amazing country. But I want to make sure we don’t neglect our own country’s incredible history.
Traditional Peruvian dance.
We’ll be spending this Independence Day as strangers in a strange land. There won’t be any Fourth of July parades to attend. No one will be hosting any red, white and blue BBQs. If we want a strawberry-blueberry-whipping-cream cake, we’ll have to make it ourselves.
And I might very well do that. We can keep our traditions alive and even share them with others. We could host an American Independence Day party for our friends here and share some of our classic cookout foods while playing patriotic music. (I’ve also thought it would be wonderful to host a traditional Thanksgiving feast for our Peruano friends and introduce them to the delights of stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce, if I could only manage to source a turkey.)
During the 75th anniversary of D-Day in early June, our family participated in remembrance from afar. We watched commemoration ceremonies online, searched for interviews from D-Day survivors, looked up vintage footage from the Normandy landings, and watched some movie clips depicting the landings as well as the paratrooper jumps into France. We’ve taught general WWII history to our kids, but this was the most specific and comprehensive exposure our kids have had yet to this historic event.
Our 8-year-old was so mesmerized by the topic that he continued asking questions and making comments for days:
Was Papa a soldier in the D-Day war?
How many soldiers from the war are still alive?
Do we know anyone from D-Day?
It’s a good thing all those soldiers were fighting for us.
This is the kind of thoughtfulness and appreciation we want our children to attain. I’m thankful for every opportunity to cultivate this mindfulness and gratitude. And if the opportunities don’t come to us, I’m glad we can make our own.
History was never my best subject in school. To me, it was often a tedious struggle to remember names and dates. But I did still learn a good deal about certain periods in history, and that was mostly thanks to historical fiction.
One of my favorite historical subjects turned out to be American Revolution. Granted, I didn’t know a lot about the political or military side of things (also tedious), but thanks to sources including the ones below, I could tell you a fair amount of trivia about the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s “Midnight Ride.” In addition to stories I heard as a child, I’ve added a few resources I’ve picked up more recently and used with my own children. As the Fourth of July approaches, maybe these can be of interest to story-oriented children like me. I know, it’s summer, . . . but stories don’t really count as school, right? Right.
This entertaining book tells about the life of Benjamin Franklin, as told by a young mouse who (in this story) was the real brain behind many of this founding father’s scientific and political contributions. It follows Franklin’s life from the days of Poor Richard’s Almanack, through a few of his inventions / experiments, to his assistance writing the Declaration of Independence, to his ambassadorship to France.
I hate to contradict this post I wrote last year, but I have to say I’d recommend the old Disney short film of the same name over the book, at least for younger children. I’ve only recently read the book, and while it certainly has its merits (like Lawson’s great sense of humor), I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much as a child, whereas I watched the movie dozens of times. Fortunately, the latter is relatively faithful to the original, other than the exclusion of the last few chapters (regarding France). I don’t think this is a great loss, however, as these chapters focus more on the mouse and don’t really show much of Franklin. The full video is available for free on YouTube.
Under this category, I’m also recommending Lawson’s Mr. Revere and I, which is written with a similar concept: it’s the story of Paul Revere as told by his horse. I read this book just for this post and enjoyed it so much it had to be mentioned. (Frankly, the only reason I’m not putting it before Ben and Me is because the movie version of the latter was such an integral part of my childhood.) Of course this story is somewhat fictionalized, mostly in order to make the horse a more central figure, but I would say it is closer to actual history than Lawson’s earlier book. Mr. Revere and I follows Revere’s story from before the Boston Massacre to after his famous ride and his witness of the “shot heard ‘round the world.” I would recommend it for readers about 4th–5th grade and up.
This book is a newer one on my list, one that I didn’t know as a child but have used with my own children. It is an easy-to-read (grades 2–4) book about a boy’s view of the battle of Lexington and Concord. As an easy reader, it obviously doesn’t have a lot of length or detail, but it gives a fair idea of what this first battle of the Revolution might have been like for a child of that time.
This is another book more recently brought to my attention, but it has quickly become a favorite. It’s a delightfully told children’s biography of King George III, including his perspective on the American Revolution. Fritz includes plenty of interesting little details about the king as a child as well as an adult, giving a unique insight into his personality and why and how he handled his side of the war. Being a slightly longer book (about 50 pages, including illustrations), I would say it’s best for 3rd–4th grade and up, but it could also work well as a read-aloud for younger grades.
Fritz has written similar biographies of several members of the Revolution as well: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere are the ones of which I am aware. I have only read the one about Paul Revere, but it is also excellent. Any of these should make for interesting and educational summer reading!
This book is one of my all-time favorites. I read it for the first time around 7th or 8th grade, but it could be manageable for a grade or two younger. It tells the story of a spirited, young Boston colonial who suffers a crippling accident, follows it up with some poor decisions, and is eventually rescued and taken in by members of the Sons of Liberty. Throughout the story, Johnny meets up with leaders of the revolution such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere, and becomes involved in important events around Boston: the Boston Tea Party, Revere’s famous ride, and the battle of Lexington and Concord. The author of this book is both quite knowledgeable of her subject (having written a full biography of Paul Revere) and a very engaging writer, so this novel is the perfect blend of entertaining fiction and historical accuracy.
5. Adventures in Odyssey history episodes.
Adventures in Odyssey was one of the most influential storytelling sources of my childhood, and the historical episodes were no exception. Episode #33, “The Day Independence Came,” brings one young man back to 1776 in a brief run-in with Nathan Hale, and then puts him in Philadelphia just as the Continental Congress is having its final debates on the Declaration of Independence.Episode #197, “The Midnight Ride,” features (of course) my favorite revolutionary, Paul Revere. This episode takes a look at Longfellow’s famous poem, explaining the story in more detail and correcting historical inaccuracies. These two episodes, especially the second, were a key part of my interest in and knowledge of the Revolution. More recently, Adventures in Odyssey has also taken a look at African-American contributions to the Revolutionary War in episodes #508-509, “The American Revelation.” I am not familiar with more recent seasons of Adventures in Odyssey (though I may have heard these episodes once), but these look great according to reviews. Episodes can be purchased online for $2 each.
And there you have it! Here’s wishing you all a delightful, and perhaps moderately educational, summer.
P.S. Have younger girls? They may be also interested in the American GirlFelicityseries by Valerie Tripp about a young girl growing up in Williamsburg during the American Revolution.
Photo Credit: iStock. Following images courtesy of author.
One moment many years ago, when my children were small and life was cramped, I sneezed. And no one said, “Bless you.”
I was tired that day, just as I was as many other days. I was also lonely; I spent the bulk of my time in the company of four small people who certainly loved me but didn’t really see me. It didn’t occur to them that I was a person. To them, I was like air: necessary but not something they really thought about.
I poured my energy into them. I taught them to read, used M&Ms to explain addition and subtraction, and sent them on “scavenger hunts” to find various sizes and colors of leaves. I modeled kindness and empathy. When they spoke, I listened. When they cried, I held them. When they gave me something, I said, “Thank you.” When I asked for something, I said, “Please.”
And when they sneezed, I said, “Bless you!”
At ages eight and under, they drew everything they needed from me without any regard to whether I could spare it. Some days, I really wondered if I had anything more to give.
So in that moment, all those years ago, I sneezed. And no one said, “Bless you.” After all, to young children, a mom existed to bless, not be blessed. The tiredness and loneliness rose up until it was over my head, and I cried.
But like so many other moms do—just like my mom did for me—I dried my tears and picked myself up, and went back to helping, modeling kindness, instructing scholars, and teaching manners.
It was an intense stage of life. I found refreshment and friendship in my husband and friends. I made space for myself from the constant demands of motherhood and homeschooling. I turned to God, and like my own children, I demanded, challenged, asked, and learned from Him until I understood who He is, and who I am.
Slowly, over the years, life stretched out a little bit. It became less cramped. My children grew older; they understood more and cried less. They started to say “please” and “thank you” without being reminded. Something new happened in their world, so gradual that they never even realized it: they began to notice me. They saw that I was a person with feelings a lot like theirs, and preferences just as important as theirs. They began to give me the same respect and consideration that I showed them.
My children are now eighteen and under. I’ve officially completed school with my oldest, and my youngest has moved on from M&M math to fractions and long division. They say “excuse me” and know how to take turns.
And today, standing in my kitchen, I sneezed. From four different spots in the house came four different voices: “Bless you!”
It made me smile. I thought back to the mom I was all those years ago. I was tired and lonely, but still faithful—just hoping that the time and energy I poured into our present would make a difference in our future.
So to my past self—and to all you other moms like me, and to my own mother who gave so much of herself many years ago—to all of us, I say, Bless you.
I never planned to be a homeschool mom. I had nothing against homeschooling, but when my son was born, I really couldn’t fathom the day he would go off to school. Or stay home for school. Or talk. I certainly didn’t anticipate the day he would be driving, or be taller than I am. And yet, here I am.
My career took me to homeschooling conventions as part of my job, but I couldn’t imagine shopping for curricula, or teaching a child to read.
Though I should have known better, I still had a visual picture of a certain woman who played the role of homeschool mom. I was not that woman.
Then my son did begin school, and I discovered that I wasn’t so good at group think. I hated even the drop-off and pickup routine of school. After a year of it, I realized that what was best for my son was to be a kid. He would tell me of a classmate who cried all morning, and I wondered how he was able to learn anything with that distraction. He was sick a lot and missed a lot of days when he was recovering. I realized that, actually, he wasn’t missing much at all. He had more time in the sandbox, more time listening to me read, and time to play with his little sister.
So, I became that mom. But I still let myself believe I was the exception to the caricature I still had in my head of a homeschool mom.
I bought into the idea that real homeschool moms wore long denim skirts, only read Christian fiction, and lived for an annual homeschooling convention. For a while I believed I was the only one with a part-time job. Then I listened a little and found out that others worked as nurses, part-time college professors, novelists, photographers, and Starbucks’ baristas.
Today, if I look around for denim skirts, I see a few. I also see tattoos, a few nose rings, and a mom with purple hair. The contemporary homeschool mom is more likely to wear yoga pants and have an Amazon Prime subscription.
As I sat talking with other moms at a recent homeschool activity, I realized how different we were. Two were talking about “retirement”: one with a little dread, and one with eager anticipation. One mom said that being a homeschooling mom was her “dream job.” I know some can relate, but others of us arrived here without the dreaming.
More and more, I hear of moms (and dads) who never fathomed they would homeschool, but had something happen, or a series of bad outcomes lead them to figure out how to manage this life. Whether it is a kid bullied too often or ridiculed for being “smart,” aggressive sex ed being mandated in the district, or a child’s just losing interest in learning or the future, ordinary people make extraordinary sacrifices to give their families something better. We dream that our kids can have better experiences, pursue various interests, and not be cookie cutter versions of each other.
So sure, some of us make our own bread and yogurt. Others of us have a pretty active Door Dash account and pay for someone to come clean our house once a month. Some of us are organized, and some of us join co-ops to help us stay focused.
Some of us love teaching. Others, like me, break into psychotic laughter when the pastor asks if we would want to teach Sunday school.
Some of us get a little busy and distracted, furiously putting together some kind of lesson plans for the coming week instead of listening to the chitchat of the moms around us. Instead of talking to other moms, we are answering the work emails we planned to do before a child had a meltdown over math. We aren’t stuck-up; we are overwhelmed, exhausted, and not always sure we are qualified to teach science when we can’t keep our plants alive.
Homeschooling is what real parents with all kinds of challenges, interests, and backgrounds do for their families when they decide it is the right thing to do. Sometimes it is the first choice; sometimes it is the last resort.
I am a Rebel Homeschool Mom. Probably, so are you.
In my last post, I shared some thoughts about how to add Bible study to our children’s school day. As I was finishing up that post, however, I realized I didn’t touch on much of the why. Whether we do it as part of our school day or not, why should we desire to add regular teaching from the Bible to our children’s lives?
As I said there, those who regularly attend church generally know that teaching our children the Word is what we’re “supposed” to do. We also know, however, that just because we’re supposed to do something doesn’t mean we’re going to be motivated to do it. After all, our children are supposed to do their schoolwork and their chores, and yet most of the time we have to breathe down their necks to make sure they actually get them done. It is always best to have a true internal drive toward something, a definitive reason for our striving, rather than being compelled by guilt or fear of consequences.
This thought was in the back of my mind as I was doing my personal Bible reading the other day. Then in the second chapter of Mark, I ran into a familiar story and suddenly realized I’d found the perfect illustration.
It was the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic. I’ve often heard and tend to look at this story from the perspective of the lame man’s friends. In my mind, these men have carried the cripple from who knows how far away for one purpose: to see if Jesus will heal him. When they arrive, the crowds are so great, they can’t even get close to the Healer. So they go to the extra trouble to hoist their friend up onto the roof, dig open a hole, and slowly, precariously, lower him down into the room. Jesus looks at the helpless man, up at his friends, and then back again. “This is it!” his friends think. “He’s going to be healed!”
Instead, Jesus smiles at the man and says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
“Uh . . . what?” I imagine his friends thinking. “I mean, that sounds great, too, I guess, . . . but isn’t it obvious that this man really needs healing?” Compared to their expectations, Jesus’ reaction might have sounded rather anticlimactic and unhelpful.
Of course as the story goes on, the faith of these men is rewarded with what they expected: their friend walks away an able-bodied man. But I think Jesus’ initial answer is telling. Though the paralytic’s friends thought his greatest need was for physical healing, Jesus knew his true greatest need was spiritual.
We often think like the paralytic and his friends when it comes to our children’s education. We want them to achieve competence (and ideally excellence) in their studies. We want them to get along with their siblings, to learn good manners and social skills so they can behave properly in public. Ultimately, we want them to grow up to be productive citizens and be successful at whatever occupation they choose. These seem like the basic necessities of education, of great importance in our children’s lives.
But as the above story shows, these are not the most important thing. Our children’s greatest need is to know Jesus, to have their sins forgiven, to understand that He is the true source of abundant life. I think most of us probably realize how much they need His salvation first and foremost, but the need for spiritual teaching doesn’t stop there. And as their primary teachers, we ought to be the chief ones to pass on these truths to our children.
As a bonus, many of the other things our children need will often come as a side effect of a relationship with the Lord and a study of His Word. They will learn that they are not to be selfish, but to look out for others and put them first (Phil. 2:3-4). They will learn that all their work (whether studies or occupation) is to be done wholeheartedly, as if being done for the Lord (Col. 3:23-24). And they will learn that fulfillment in life ultimately comes not from academic or economic success, but from trusting and delighting in God (Psalm 37:3-6).
Regular Bible study with our kids may not always be an easy habit to establish, but it comes with many benefits. He has promised it: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [the necessities of life (v. 31)] will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). I’d say that’s a pretty good motivator. wouldn’t you?
With one year left before she graduates from high school, 18-year-old homeschooler Cailyn Pentecost already knows what it means to nurture exceptional talent—and face a devastating setback.
An advanced student, musician, and versatile athlete, Cailyn was poised to make her mark as one of the top track and field competitors in the country when she suffered an injury that left her unable to walk, or even stand.
That, said Cailyn, is when she developed a deeper understanding of what matters most in life.
Not that she was completely untutored in these things.
Family, ministry, and education have always been important to the Pentecosts, explained Cailyn’s mother, Laura.
Though Laura has taught in public school, and her husband Eric is in his 28th year teaching for the local district, they became impressed with the idea of homeschooling early on after getting to know a homeschool family in their church.
“Our first question was—is that even legal?” quipped Laura. But after learning more by attending a homeschool convention, they jumped in and started teaching their oldest son, Logan, before he was even in kindergarten.
They continued homeschooling Cailyn, their next child, and her younger brothers, Gabel, Jonah, and Micah. The siblings have excelled academically and engage in a wide range of activities, but according to Laura, another accomplishment her kids display especially gratifies her.
“They’re very supportive of each other,” she said. In fact, among the primary benefits of homeschooling she sees is “the relationship we have with each other, and the relationship we have with our kids.”
Taking the Field
Sports have also become a major part of their homeschool.
Thanks to Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) bylaws, which say public school districts may allow homeschool students who enroll in at least one class to participate in extracurriculars, Logan lettered in several varsity sports at the local high school. He is now part of the football program at Hillsdale College in Michigan.
Cailyn competed in track—and set five records—at the local middle school. In the 9th grade she set a school record for high jump and finished 11th in the event at the IHSAA state meet.
Gabel also competed for the local public school district—until officials changed the policy regarding homeschool students, “which is an entire story in itself,” says Laura. The siblings were able to continue in sports through club teams and travel squads.
In 2016, the summer before her 9th grade, Cailyn accepted a challenge to expand her athletic range.
“Because he saw she was good at a variety of events,” explained Laura, “her summer track coach really encouraged her to try out for heptathlon,” which combines sprints, jumping, shot put, and javelin.
The change did entail some adjustment.
Because they require mastering a particular form, said Cailyn, “the throwing events are way harder than I ever imagined.” Running comes more naturally, she added, though the workouts can still be a grind, as confirmed by a common joke: “My sport is what other sports’ athletes do for punishment. I’ve heard that before.”
But Cailyn insisted she has come to enjoy the heptathlon, because “if I’m having a bad day in one event, I can do well in another.”
Turn of Events
And she has had some pretty good days.
Her first summer competing in the heptathlon, she won her age group at a USA Track and Field (USATF) regional meet. This qualified her for nationals, but she missed the event in order to attend camp with Generation Joshua, Home School Legal Defense Association’s youth civics program.
In 2017, Cailyn won both the regional USATF heptathlon and the regional Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) heptathlon, qualifying for the national meet in both organizations. She competed at the AAU Junior Olympics and placed 3rd in the nation for her age group.
Then disaster struck.
During a routine practice with her club volleyball team in January 2018, Cailyn came down hard on her left leg, tearing a pair of tendons and tissue near the knee.
At first, said Cailyn, “I was in denial.”
But medical examinations showed the damage was severe.
After undergoing surgery in March, she began extensive physical therapy. For a while the pain grew worse, and her leg had to be kept locked into position.
“It was hard to sleep. Everything was harder,” said Cailyn. And progress came slowly, as the first tasks she worked on were simply standing and bending—“the things you take for granted.”
Road to Recovery
That’s when she found herself enrolled in the deeper lessons.
Cailyn saw her family rally around her. When she arrived home from the hospital, Cailyn found her brothers had decorated her room with inspirational quotes, Scripture verses, and photos of her competing in track. Her dad posted more of these in her car.
Laura located a good therapist. “We were very blessed to find a place that understood sports injuries and could work to get her back to performance level,” she said.
Meanwhile, said Cailyn, “I focused on things I could control.” These included getting good nutrition, reading her Bible, and ensuring she treated others with kindness and compassion.
Laura said she could see the results of these efforts in her daughter.
“God is working on your character while you go through difficult things,” Laura said. “You may be improving in things you can’t see. You can learn a learn a lot of lessons.”
Cailyn agreed. Having dealt with the pain and disappointment of a major injury, she said, “I can relate more to people who have gone through tough things.”
So instead of centering her life around track and volleyball last summer, Cailyn followed other pursuits. She spent time with her family and sang and played in a band with her brothers at church.
During the school year she supplemented her studies with college courses and began a job at an assisted living center.
This spring she returned to track, entering several open meets at area colleges. In May Cailyn competed in her first heptathlon since the injury, and she has joined a USATF team in anticipation of summer events.
She’s ambitious, but also realistic.
“I’m still a little cautious,” said Cailyn. She makes sure her routines include stretching, warming up, and cooling down.
She would like to qualify for nationals. But ultimately, she hopes to keep her track skills advanced enough to earn her a college scholarship so she can study nursing.
After all, said Cailyn: “Athletics is fun, but it’s not the most important thing in your life.”
Photo Credit: First image from iStock. Following images courtesy of Pentecost family
We’re almost ready for your arrival! I’ve got a little bit of business to clear up before you get here, but we can’t wait to see you.
Summertime is arriving soon. I’m not trying to rush you, but you know we’re all much happier if you go away a few weeks. I suggest you visit some of those families who love having you around during the summer break. See you in the fall!
Summertime is arriving soon. We’re looking forward to seeing you while she’s here—you always bring along such fun possibilities for us to work on! Recently we’ve been interested in sculpting with clay, writing novels, and coming up with role-playing game scenarios. I can’t wait to see what you have for us!
Yes, I did invite Creativity to visit while you’re gone. No, you can’t stay too. You know how nervous you make her. You pressure her to do things at certain times or expect her to produce certain results. Besides, remember how her lack of time management skills drive you up the wall? Trust me, this arrangement is best for everyone.
Dear Wasting Time,
I got your note. You really expect to hang out with us while Schedule is gone? Not this year! We are going to focus on real projects with Creativity, not fritter away hours with you. Just don’t even show up!
I was wondering if you’ve gotten any better at, you know, cleanup. Because you can get quite messy, and without Schedule around to remind people to clean up, it gets a little out of hand. Just a thought.
Dear Wasting Time,
I don’t care how closely related you are to Creativity. You can’t come!
(Tough) Love, Sara.
What do you mean, you aren’t coming if Wasting Time doesn’t come?!
Sure, you and Wasting Time look very similar sometimes. And yes, I know you need “space to work” and Wasting Time is good at providing that. But this wouldn’t even be a problem if you’d just have a few ready-made ideas on hand. Most of your concepts are only half-formed, and we have to spend hours working on them to finish them.
Plus, Wasting Time is such a bad influence! You know how it goes. We sit down with you and a new idea—and suddenly Wasting Time shoves you out of the way and gives us stupid YouTube videos to watch instead. And we don’t get anything done! I trust that you see my point. I’ll be sending a firm response to Wasting Time as soon as I get your reply.
Dear Wasting Time,
Okay. Fine. You can come.
Apparently Creativity “needs” you around. And it’s true that Schedule detests you and doesn’t want to come near you, so Creativity doesn’t have to worry about the pressure of a deadline or anything. But don’t think you’re going to just take over. You are here strictly to assist Creativity. Not to take over the whole visit.
Don’t let anybody see this note.
I was wondering if you’d like to drop in every now and then over the next few weeks. Just enough to keep Creativity on track. And—okay, I’ll admit it, Wasting Time is coming, and I need you to make sure he doesn’t take over the whole household. Thanks.
You won’t believe how busy I’ve been, getting ready for you. It turns out that of my three other correspondents—Schedule, Creativity, and even Wasting Time—we need all of them to get the most out of your visit. Who would’ve thought?
But now everything’s in place. Everybody’s ready. Feel free to arrive as soon as you like.
Have you ever heard that old children’s song, “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow”? For many of us who grew up in church, this song—and this sentiment—may be nearly as familiar as “Jesus Loves Me.” I frequently heard exhortations from the pulpit for Christians to have daily devotions and for Christian parents to have regular family devotions as well.
But I have to wonder how many of us have actually followed this advice. My mother, to her credit, did do a Bible time with my siblings and I almost every school day. Evening family devotions were much more sporadic, however. And although I would often spend an hour or more in my personal devotion times as a teen (as I thought a good Christian should), these times were far from regular, and I often felt guilty that I wasn’t doing them as often as I should.
Naturally, this expectation of spending an hour every day in devotions did not work out well when I got married and became a mother. Feeling rather defeated in my personal devotions, I honestly didn’t really consider teaching much to my kids. But around a year or so after we started school, I realized that taking the kids to Sunday school wasn’t the same thing as personally, regularly educating my children in the Word as we are commanded in Deuteronomy 6:7. Taking a hint from my mom, I decided to try to add Bible study as a regular part of our school day.
How did that go? Let’s just say at first it was about as successful as my personal devotions in my teens. There were times when I spent an hour developing a fill-in-the-blank Bible study for my kids each morning. And there were other times where I was in a hurry to get through school, and Bible study got skipped completely. Most of the time, we started out well at the beginning of the school year or the spring semester. But the will to continue soon withered away and eventually died as the months went on. It’s convicting to realize that academic subjects will continue regardless, but when we get busy, the part of our education with more eternal significance tends to get pushed to the back burner.
To be sure, new habits can be difficult to develop. But for me, I think the primary source of this Bible study fatigue is that I tend to make it too complicated. I’ve had to come to the same conclusion I finally did about my personal devotions: when you’re struggling to change your habits or try something new, doing something is better than doing nothing. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Consistency is the key. Keep it simple. Find what works. Change it up when needed. If you skip a day (or a week, or a month), don’t let it defeat you. Habits can still be formed even when they start small.
I once read about a single dad (who is busier than single parents?!) whose family devotions started by simply reading a few verses with his children at the breakfast table. It later blossomed into deeper discussions and study, but really, how difficult is it to read a few verses together each morning? I don’t need to write up a whole page of Bible study questions every day. I don’t even need to read ahead every time and prepare my thoughts for what I’m going to teach. Sometimes I can just pick up a Bible and start reading.
With this freeing thought in mind, our Bible studies have become much more consistent in the past couple of years. Our routine often changes depending on what we have on our schedule. Lately, I have been reading out of a children’s Bible study book,* following up with a brief discussion. Sometimes I read a story out of a children’s Bible or pick a book of the Bible and read no more than one chapter a day. Sometimes (when I’m not feeling up to the planning) I ask one of my kids to pick a passage to share with the rest of us. And every once in a while, we simply take a few minutes to pray together before we jump into school.
As you can see, our devotional time isn’t always so much of a study as simply sharing a bit of the Word together. But some days (and you don’t always know when these days will be!), we find an interesting verse or subject and end up delving deeper. Our devotions typically last about 15-20 minutes, but sometimes they last an hour because we’ve hit on an important topic. Come to think of it, that’s how it works with many of our school subjects. . . . Why shouldn’t it work for the Bible?
I know it’s late in the school year, maybe nearing the end for some of you. But perhaps some of you have been wanting to get into more of a habit of doing Bible study with your children. If you are just starting out, or struggling with getting into a routine, or falling off the wagon as the school year winds down, I hope these thoughts are encouraging. Remember, something is better than nothing. Start small. You never know when something simple might take root and grow in ways you never imagined.
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of author.
*Here is link to the book we are currently using. We have read some of the other books in this series and have enjoyed them as well.
Though just finishing 10th grade, homeschooler Hannah King is already a seasoned worker who feels driven to meet ambitious career and financial goals. In fact, she’s driving herself.
In anticipation of receiving her license in early May, Hannah began practicing navigating the roads of her northern Florida home the previous September in a 2004 Volvo XC90 that she paid for with her own money.
That major purchase—and equally major step toward adulthood—stemmed from a work ethic she’s been cultivating since age 13, when she began babysitting for a neighbor.
Hannah’s first taste of earning money, plus the example of her own parents working and budgeting, made the teen anxious to do more. So about a year and a half ago, when she was 14, Hannah asked if she could apply at the nearest Chick-fil-A restaurant. (Florida law allows 14-year-olds to work under certain restrictions.)
“It was mostly my idea,” recalled Hannah, “but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my mom.”
Budgeting for Success
Hannah’s mother, Angie King, said she recognized her daughter’s desire as the natural outcome of what she and her husband Rex attempt to inculcate in their children.
“We try to lead by example,” Angie explained, “and I think she’s picked up on that.” Their homeschool has also included deliberate lessons in finances and personal responsibility, such as when Angie taught Hannah how to manage a checkbook at the tender age of 10.
Hannah’s request also launched a new era of juggling the teen’s already busy schedule—adding work to maintaining straight A’s in school, athletics, and volunteering with Girls on the Run.
Volunteering with Girls on the Run
“We definitely told her that school comes first,” said Angie. For example, Hannah was recently dissuaded from taking on extra hours until she finished this term’s AP classes.
Angie added: “She’s naturally a mature and responsible person,” an observation that made saying yes to a job easier.
Not that applying was easy.
Hannah recalled: “I was so nervous when I went into the interview, my hands were shaking. But I was hired on the spot. I was so happy they took a chance on a 14-year-old.”
At the time the only other employee her age was the boss’s daughter. The two quickly became friends.
Hannah said she also learned that Chick-fil-A managers in her area “really love hiring homeschoolers.” This benefits the business, because homeschooled workers are often available when other students aren’t.
“I definitely wouldn’t be able to work the hours I work without homeschooling,” remarked Hannah. “I love that homeschooling gives me the flexibility to work when they need me.”
She said that she has grown as a worker. Recently Hannah was nominated for employee of the month, which she feels reflects the fact she’s taken on some duties that are usually reserved for supervisors, such as bagging food during the lunch rush, answering phones, and dealing with customer concerns.
This growth prompted her to seek more independence—and responsibility—by lobbying her mom and dad for her own car.
Her parents’ response was to have Hannah take a hard look at her budget, not just for the cost of a vehicle, but “insurance, maintenance—everything.”
First Set of Wheels
But the numbers worked, so late last summer, while still 15, Hannah became the proud owner of a silver SUV with a sunroof and turbocharged engine. According to Hannah, it also “needed a lot of work.”
So she launched into learning yet another skill, getting under the hood with her dad to do much of the labor themselves.
Then, after a combination of online training and parent-taught driver’s ed, the momentous occasion came in May when Hannah turned 16.
“My birthday was on Saturday,” recalled Hannah, “so the following Monday I was there at the DMV at 8:30 a.m. to get my driver’s license.” The consummate planner, she remembered to pack her Chick-fil-A uniform so she could proceed directly to work.
Angie confessed the event struck her as bittersweet.
“This is a huge rite of passage for a teenager, and I was happy for her,” said Angie. “But it was hard to watch her drive away for the first time.”
Angie said she reminded herself that not having to chauffeur her daughter would free up several hours a day. And that Volvos have a reputation for safety.
But when it comes to your own children, she added, “you never stop worrying about them.”
Hannah also admitted to mixed emotions.
Compared to a friend of hers, who has a car but shares expenses with the parents, it’s gratifying to know “my car in the driveway is completely my own,” said Hannah. “But I was also shocked,” when the insurance bill arrived.
For now, the added expense means Hannah hopes to pick up extra hours at work over the summer. She also plans to train for a competitive open-water swim in August.
In the fall she intends to take college courses through dual-enrollment, with the goal of eventually earning an associate’s degree and transferring to the University of North Florida to study physical therapy.
If it seems like a lot of work, at least that’s something Hannah is already familiar with.
“Work has really helped me grow as a person,” she said, “so I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything.”
Besides, if her schedule gets really hectic, it will just give her an excuse to splurge on something she would really love to have anyway—a new planner.
In September of 2006, I sat down with you to officially begin homeschooling. Your dad and I had ordered curriculum that came with everything we needed—books to read aloud, worksheets to fill out, and a curriculum guide to keep us on track. You were 5 years old, ready to learn, and I was ready to get this show going.
Of course, I’d already been educating you long before this day. You were a late talker; at age 2 ½, your first “word” was repeating the alphabet after me. You learned to read “9:00” on an analog clock because that was when I’d let you watch The Magic School Bus. (I was a young mom with only two children, so I had standards back then.) You were always thinking and listening and trying to make sense of the world. (“A caterpillar becomes a raccoon, and then it becomes a butterfly.”)
In those first few weeks of homeschooling, I discovered that I detest curriculum guides. I also found out that I don’t like reading aloud. You, meanwhile, resented being given instruction when you thought you already knew how to do it. You were familiar with most basic science facts, you’d memorized a lot of familiar Bible verses, and it took you about twenty minutes to master addition and subtraction. By two weeks into my homeschooling career, I was already reshaping our school days to fit our needs.
I did teach you to read, something I enjoyed thoroughly. You learned rapidly, but not without some setbacks. English phonics infuriated you. You once had a meltdown in the grocery store parking lot because I told you that “double” was not pronounced “dow-ble.” I hustled you into your seat before you noticed that the next word was “coupons.” But we persevered, and when you were six years old, you read The Wizard of Oz on your own. That was the last time I was able to keep up with what you were reading.
As you grew older, you thrived on independent work. I would write out your assignments and let you complete them at your own pace. I learned that I had to be extremely specific about how I told you to do something, because you were always looking for loopholes. “You didn’t say I had to write every word in the sentence, just to rewrite it!” I can’t say this was an endearing trait, but it meant I couldn’t just go on autopilot.
Sometimes, when the demands of a younger kid, a toddler, and a baby sapped my energy and creativity, I’d get stacks of science books out of the library and leave them in view. You devoured them all.
When you were eleven, you parked yourself at the computer and began to type a story. I figured you were imitating what I’d been doing since you could remember. But you kept at it until your story concluded 51 pages later. I read it aloud to you and Sparkler as a bedtime story. It was unintentionally hilarious, especially that one scene you wrote when you were irritated at me, so two characters spoke disapprovingly of me. At the same time, it was a serious accomplishment for your age. We realized that you weren’t just copying me, but that you cherish your own passion to write.
About the time you completed sixth grade, I was overwhelmed and burned out from being the sole educator in the house, along with running the household and being the day-to-day parent. My own passion to write was dying from neglect. Until I could get back on my feet, your dad took over your schooling. His love of structured plans and voracious reading fit in well with your independent style. The two of you went through junior high and high school together. When someone asks you now what school you attend, you often reply, “My dad homeschools me.”
Despite your excellent work, you haven’t spent your educational career racking up academic accomplishments and making detailed plans for your future. Your approach to life is different. You want time for your ideas and stories. You have plans for your future, but they’re not urgent or grandiose. To put it in popular literary terms, you’re not a Hermione Granger, you’re a Luna Lovegood. And the world needs Lunas.
This May of 2019, you’re finishing your last year of high school. I look back at that day thirteen years ago, now kind of hazy around the edges, and am amazed that we made it all the way through together. Your dad and I—as well as tutors, online instructors, and many other homeschooling moms in our community—have taught you a lot. But to be honest, much of our “homeschooling” wasn’t sitting you down and imparting knowledge to you, but simply giving you what you needed, and watching you master a subject yourself. That bodes well for your life ahead of you.
Congratulations, graduate. We are proud of you.
* For those not familiar with the Harry Potter books (my condolences): Hermione Granger is academic, driven, and at the top of her class. Luna Lovegood is dreamy, artistic, and doesn’t seem to realize there is a top of the class. Both highly prize friendship, love, and loyalty. Luna’s classmates tend to dismiss her as odd and aimless, so her considerable accomplishments come as a surprise to everyone.
Notable Quote by Hermione Granger: “…I’m going to bed, before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed — or worse, expelled.”
Notable Quote by Luna Lovegood: “My mum always said things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end. If not always in the way we expect.”