God desires godly children (Malachi 2:15). As homeschooling parents, how can we achieve this huge command?
Our homeschooling adventure can be compared to building a temple for God. We are the living stones, which God is using to build His Body, the church, and we have been entrusted by God Himself to raise up a new generation for Him. We are no less than co-laborers with God! Picture this temple, built by and for God, with three elements: the foundation, the walls, and the roof. The walls are the “school” part of the day – whether by books, real-life activities, or projects. The roof is the life skills so vital to each person. We will cover this in the next article.
No man can lay a Foundation, however, than that which has already been laid in God’s Word and in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In raising our children for God, we need to give them a firm foundation in His Word, help them establish their own personal relationship with Him, and build Christian Character and a Christian worldview, all of which are vital to a life that will have lasting value.
Our first priority is to disciple our children! A person, no matter how well-educated, will just be an educated fool without a godly foundation. Our children – and ourselves – can never be fully integrated with the knowledge we collect throughout life, without the foundation given to us in God’s Word. Education will never fill the spiritual void in people’s lives, no matter what reforms, methods, or innovations we try! The head can never take the place of the heart. No matter what their age, we need to guide our children in their journey to God, to point the way for their trusting feet.
This Foundation is already laid for us; we just need to grasp the understanding of it, and implement it thoroughly in our lives and our children’s!
Deut. 6:4-9 tells us specifically to teach our children to love God with all their hearts, minds, and might. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This is Israel’s Shema, or expression of faith and ardent love for God. It should be the shema for each Christian family’s, also — our declaration of purpose, our mission statement, our fervent daily prayer. The underpinning of each day: to put God above all other interests, and love each other as yourself. As we sit in our house; as we walk, when we lie down, when we rise. Daily. All the time. How can we implement that? Do we take the time to obey God in this? Even homeschooling, we often find ourselves “busy” with scurrying about: studying, cleaning, running to soccer, classes, clubs, lessons. Are we taking the TIME for what God commands… the truly IMPORTANT things of life?
Ruth Beechick, in Heart and Mind: What the Bible Says about Learning, clearly illustrates the importance of the heart in the Bible, the noticeable lack of it in secular theories, and how we need to implement it in our parenting and home education to attain God’s goals for our children.
A. A Firm Foundation in God’s Word
- Teach your children from God’s Word — there is no substitute for His Word! No amount of unit studies about the Bible, paraphrases of the Bible, and children’s Bible editions or devotions can or should take its place. Use these other tools freely – just don’t let them replace His Word.
- Teach by example. Let them see you reading the Bible, praying, enjoying your relationship with God and His Word.
- Teach informally. As the “teachable moment” comes up, be sure to interject God’s perspective on each subject.
- Teach formally: this is truly a case were values are taught as well as caught! Many a sad Christian parent of teens has wondered to us why their children never caught their belief in the Lord, but they had rarely taken the time to personally teach them or pray with them.
- Teach them how to meditate on God’s Word. (Joshua 1:8)
- Teach them to read the Bible for just reading; to read and memorize it for mediation; to read and study it for application and in-depth study.
The Bible. Nothing can replace this!
For the “teachable moment”, have on hand The Encyclopedia of Bible Truths by Ruth Haycock.
B. A Personal Relationship with God
No amount of head knowledge of the Bible, strong character, or the correct biblical worldview, can replace a personal relationship with God Himself. This is the key and center of our parenting… the most important aspect of our children’s life.
I know a man who memorized whole sections of the Bible, attended Christian college, went on to seminary, studying to be a pastor, and lives his life with a harsh, completely non-Christian lifestyle. He now teaches at a Christian seminary, yet scoffs at the Bible! This is a stark reality we need to understand – that teaching the intellect alone will never accomplish God’s ends. We must be diligent in teaching our children His Ways, and praying for them.
- Pray for their salvation. While we cannot “make” them Christian, any more than a cat can make itself a tiger, we can obey God’s command to “raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) Should God, in His Sovereignty, choose them as His own, they will be ready to respond to Him. Pray for them diligently and faithfully every day!
- Teach them faithfully yourself how to have a personal relationship with God – not of works, but by faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
- Teach them to pray. Even when they can barely talk, teach them to fold their little hands in prayer, to sit patiently and quietly during Family Prayers and Devotions. You can model prayer for preschoolers, having them echo back, phrase after phrase, their little prayer to the Father as you take turns.
- Each evening, before bedtime, we would read a little from their Bible Story book, sing a child’s hymn, and pray with them. What precious memories! And what else could be more important? Take the time to pray with them each day, so they establish the habit and discipline of prayer.
- Teach them the discipline of personal Bible Study, when they can spend time reading God’s Word and taking it into their own life. Take them to church weekly with your whole family.
Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade. A great family devotional for all ages!
2-10 yrs. old: Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland. Teaches basic Bible doctrine of sin, the fall, who God is, etc.
10-18 yrs: Seven Steps to Bible Study Skills by Dorothy Hellstern. (Learning to use Bible maps, the concordance, etc.)
14 yrs +: Continue to disciple them, using adult level materials. Spend time discipling them, discussing the Bible and its application to life.
C. Christian Character and a Christian Worldview
Building Christian Character in our children is first the work of the parents — setting the boundaries of acceptable behavior, teaching what qualities we want to see: diligence, faithfulness, kindness, and so forth. Then, as the child grows, he must start internalizing these traits without external force, using his own self-control and self-government. And above and throughout our work – both the parents and child’s – it is the work of the Holy Spirit, in and through our child.
Teaching a Christian worldview means we see all of education, and all of life itself, through the filter of God’s Word… though His eyes. Every curriculum is filtered through some type of worldview; don’t be naive in thinking there is a “neutral” curriculum! Let’s be bold in asserting our values and beliefs with our families, that we may raise them to have understanding in this society, and go out as Salt and Light in this dark world, as God has commanded.
One way to start establishing a Christian worldview from the youngest years, is reading great Christian books to your children. Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, gives many great ideas for all ages, infants through adult. Great Books of the Christian Tradition by Terry Glaspey is a reference list which should be on every Christian’s bookshelf! We want to integrate moral wisdom, biblical understanding, and art appreciation into the educational experience. One of our goals as Christian parents is to raise children who are morally responsible, culturally literate, and spiritually strong.
For Instruction in Righteousness by Pam Forester (Doorposts). A topical study of Bible verses based on child training and Christian character with activities written by a homeschooling family. We used this for character training, as well as discipline for these specific sins!
Building Christian Character by Adams & Stein. Twenty-two scriptural characteristics, contrasting good and bad, such as honesty/dishonesty, responsibility/irresponsibility, etc. A great book to meditate on — not a quick read, but deep, that will give you insight as you train your children for Christ.
Children of a Greater God by Terry Glaspey. One of the best books I’ve read on raising children of all ages in a Christian culture and worldview! This gives five specific ways to inculcate your children in the biblical worldview. To that end, the book includes many helpful appendices and reading lists.
Any of the Principle Approach books. Some of the easiest to use are the Intrepid Series, the Classic Literature Notebooks from Alpha Omega which stress character analysis of the literature, as well as Beautiful Feet Press.
Understanding the Times by David Noebel. A deep philosophical book, but one which every Christian should read and incorporate its principles into his understanding of our society. (High School through adult).
As Douglas Wilson so aptly says in Classical Education and the Home School, “What makes a Christian education unique? It is not a secular education with a veneer of prayer and Bible attached. Rather, we view the Scriptures as the sole rule of faith and practice. The Bible must be at the center of our thinking… Everything in the educational process is to revolve around the revealed Word of God.
“Tota et sola Scriptura. Our final allegiance is to all of Scripture, and only Scripture.”
When building for eternity, we want to make the foundation strong and deep. We lay the infrastructure for our children’s lives on a strong, sure understanding of God’s Word and a close personal relationship with Him, which will give them the ability to see the world around them from God’s point of view.
Christian education is teaching knowledge to the intellect. We need to be aware of the need to reach the whole person – of reaching our child’s heart, and causing a thirst and desire to follow hard after God. Knowledge, even Christian education, puffeth up, but the Spirit gives light and life. We first teach and train to increase the thirsting after God, then step back, and let God fill the spirit of our children. A person can never be whole without the “God-shaped vacuum within”; being filled by God Himself. All our homeschooling will just be fancy window-dressing without the finishing work of God.
Copyright, Mary Tanksley. Used by CHEA of California with permission of the author.
Mary Tanksley (B.A. English/Bible Biola University) has been homeschooling her 8 children for over 25 years and has graduated 6 of them. She serves as a CFS leader in North County and teaches popular homeschool seminars at the CFS & CHEA conventions.