“Teach Them Your Children”

Poster in our home of the Ten Commandments

There isn’t a vast range of Scripture that specifically covers what to teach our children. Sure, there are several passages that discuss wisdom, knowledge, and important principles, as well as the words of our Savior. However, we may often overlook verses which explicitly deal with what our Heavenly Father has commanded His people to teach and how to instruct their children. One of these passages, located in the book of Deuteronomy, I believe is of great interest. “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth,” Deuteronomy 11:18-21 KJV. These are some pretty hefty verses; nevertheless, I would like to point out a few of the highlights.

Firstly, we are instructed to place God’s Word in our heart and soul. “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul…” This of course is a foreshadowing of the new covenant relationship with our blessed Redeemer as mentioned in the following Scriptures: “…but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people,” Jeremiah 31:33 KJV. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them,” Hebrews 10:16 KJV.

Next we are told to “bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.” To understand the symbolism here, we need to look at some well known verses dealing with signs/marks upon foreheads (frontlets) and hands. “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof,” Ezekiel 9:4 KJV. “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,” Revelation 14:9 KJV. These verses are commonly interpreted to mean of some truth or error settled in our thoughts (forehead) and shown through our actions (hands). With this in mind it speaks of having God’s Word and Truth placed in our thoughts as well as being lived out in our lives.

Now that the groundwork has been laid, the educating of children can commence. “And ye shall teach them (God’s Word) your children, speaking of them (God’s Word) when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” We are to instruct our children His Word while we are at our homes, traveling about completing errands and what-not, as we prepare for bed, and as one of the first things we do from waking in the morning. We should be speaking God’s Word throughout the day to our children, not just at worship time and Bible class.

Then the verse gets interesting: “…and thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates.” Honestly, this part had me stumped for awhile. That is until I started practicing what many other families already do of placing Scripture verses throughout their homes. My personal observation is that ones placed at focal points are more easily read and memorized. Such areas include above the kitchen sink, around the dining room table, and especially doors — places where our eyes are drawn while we are moving about our day.

Poster in our home of 2 Peter dealing with character training

Lastly comes the promise, “that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” Interestingly enough is how similar this promise is to the one found in the Ten Commandments dealing with respecting our parents: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee,” Exodus 20:12 KJV. These blessings are not only physical, as in this world we live in, but more importantly spiritual, looking forward to the world to come.

Sometimes we can get so bogged down trying to educate our children to the state’s and society’s standards, that we just might lose sight of the importance of true education. However, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Numbers 23:19 KJV. His Word is clear! As parents we must seek and serve Him daily as we co-operate with the divine agencies in the growing of our relationship with Him. Then, we teach our children His Word by presenting it throughout our daily activities and placing it readily in their sight. By doing so we can do no harm, but instead bring great blessing upon our loved ones and ourselves.

May our Heavenly Father bless and guide you in your endeavor to raise children for His service in this life as well as the one to come, that you too may proclaim as the beloved apostle John did, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” 3 John 1:4 KJV.

Tools Trump Toys!

A few weeks ago, my then-ten-year-old son sent me this email:

(I purposely did not correct his grammar and punctuation errors so that you could know it is authentic. We can work on those later.)

Hi, how are you doing? I am doing good. I want a bird (chickadee) cake for my birthday and strawberry ice cream. I  want to go swimming and roast hot dogs on the fire and have watermelon for lunch on my birthday.

Here is a list of present’s:
Drill
Drill bits
Saw
Nails
Screws
Garden tools
Clippers
Love, AJ

Well, my heart smiled, and I immediately sent it to Grandma so that she could share my enjoyment, as well as have a list of birthday suggestions. Then, I studied the list more and began to wonder, “Are these gifts normal?” Do most soon-to-be-11-year-olds wish for clippers, drills, and garden tools?

We have boys. Pretty much from the time they were able to recognize a saw, they used sticks to make pretend ones. You know how it goes: a simple stick can transform into a chainsaw, a sword, or a violin bow, just as quick as the imagination changes gears. I don’t say that this is unique to boys; they are just what I have to observe. I’ve known little girls to turn a cell phone into a pretend ultrasound probe and scan their daddy’s belly. Kids just make up pretend tools according to what they are exposed to, because they want to do “real things.” In fact, if you stop to watch little people, many of their games are attempts to copy what their adults do frequently.It’s no wonder, then, that in our family, when our oldest boy turned nine (a few years ago), he scrimped and saved his dollars to purchase a used lawnmower, so that he could be just like his daddy, who ran a lawn service. Sure, he liked playing with Legos like most boys, but he mostly saved those for the winter months, when he had to be cooped up inside anyway. He always had a desire to do something useful — build something, make something, or try to figure out how something worked. He led the way in the “Tools over Toys” philosophy that we have preferred since we began our family.

We have never been opposed to toys, but as children grow and multiply, so do their toys! I began to inwardly groan whenever holidays and birthdays rolled around, because really, children don’t need as many toys as they generally have. They are hard to keep organized, and easy to lose. Thankfully, our extended family has been very respectful in the types of toys shared. As time has gone on, and especially since we are gearing up for a move into smaller living quarters, I have seen our boys begin to evaluate more closely their possessions. Suddenly, we all have to prioritize, and only the most important items get to go along with us! I’ve seen many toys go out, and we have shifted to the new era of Big Boy Toys.

Big Boy Toys are those that men and boys alike appreciate: power tools, ratchet sets, etc. Once every three weeks or so, my boys will convince me to take them to Harbor Freight Tool Store. I’m afraid I go into that store like my husband would enter a Hobby Lobby — dragging my feet and groaning to myself. I set a timer; otherwise, we’d stay for hours! One reason I go is the very reason I hate to go — I know that a good percentage of what’s sold, or given away for free, in that store is going to be a disappointment. I hate to see good money used up on trifles, but once I’ve stated my opinion of the necessity of some of the freebies, I hold my tongue. Time does teach lessons here — those “free batteries” let you down just when you are getting ready to take that great shot of the eclipse; the “free” headlight really doesn’t provide enough light for your trail; and you can only use so many amazing grabbers! So, the lessons learned by purchasing or acquiring cheap stuff is a good one, better taught by experience than by parental advice. Our sons are slowly learning that there is quality to be found, but they may have to wait, pay more, or both, in order to find it.

Transitioning to real tools instead of toys will likely happen naturally, if the conditions in the home provide opportunities to learn to use them. A girl won’t desire her own rolling pin and apron if she never gets a chance to try out making cookies or looking through cookbooks. Boys who never get to see under a hood of a car will learn to assume someone else should fix the car instead of jumping right in there to see what’s wrong. But, I was very glad last week with my just-turned-11-year old! We were in town, and my father asked us to drive a homeless man to my parent’s house where we would eat together. Dad and our other son jumped into Dad’s truck and took off! Well, my car would not start, and the man in our car was elderly and had crippled hands, so I knew he was dependent on us. Our youngest hopped out, flipped open the hood, and proceeded to tap the battery; then when that didn’t work, he dug out the jumper cables from the trunk and helped the other man who stopped to help us. I felt very proud that our sons had learned some basic lessons (informally) under the hood. It’s because Daddy has allowed them to watch and help that they feel confident to at least try some basic repairs.

In our homeschools, one goal is to graduate our children with the knowledge they will need to do practical work once they leave our supervision. So, practical training is vital to their success in life. There are many recommendations in the Spirit of Prophecy about practical training. We have been reading through the book Education, and the chapter on “Manual Training” is very useful for this topic. A few nuggets that I dug up are these:

“When children reach a suitable age, they should be provided with tools. If their work is made interesting, they will be found apt pupils in the use of tools. If the father is a carpenter, he should give his boys lessons in house building, ever bringing into his instruction lessons from the Bible, the words of Scripture in which the Lord compares human beings to His building,” Child Guidance, p. 356.

“Your means could not be used to better advantage than in providing a workshop furnished with tools for your boys, and equal facilities for your girls. They can be taught to love labor,” Healthful Living, p.137.1.

“While attending school the youth should have an opportunity for learning the use of tools. Under the guidance of experienced workmen, carpenters who are apt to teach, patient, and kind, the students themselves should erect buildings on the school grounds and make needed improvements, thus by practical lessons learning how to build economically. The students should also be trained to manage all the different kinds of work connected with printing, such as typesetting, presswork, and book binding, together with tentmaking and other useful lines of work. Small fruits should be planted, and vegetables and flowers cultivated, and this work the lady students may be called out of doors to do. Thus, while exercising brain, bone, and muscle, they will also be gaining a knowledge of practical life,” 6 Testimonies, p.176.

This sentiment is voiced from several individuals that have experience in educating children. One is Dr. Raymond Moore. He recommends a balanced approach to education, with three areas comprising most of the student’s education: work, service, and study, in equal proportions. Here is his counsel on what will help a child to learn practical skills:

“Instead of toys, give them tools (kitchen, shop, yard or desk), encyclopedias, magazines; use libraries, etc. Don’t be shocked at their interests, even if they are guns or motorcycles! From these they can learn chemistry and physics (internal combustion motors), economics, math, history, geography, languages, cultures, and manual skills (at local repair shops or in home businesses). Girls are usually a year or so ahead of boys, at least until late teens.

“The ‘antennae’ sprouting from the brains of most students are blocked by mass-education’s cookie-cutter substitutes for life that destroy creativity. Kids come out uniform-sized cookies, or sausages.”

You may read more about this tried and true approach to education at the Moore Foundation.

As I was gathering my thoughts about this post, I stumbled across an excellent article here (No Greater Joy).  It has been years since I have read any of the material from No Greater Joy, but in this article, Michael Pearl shares his perspective on why many young people, boys in particular, drift away to an aimless life. He believes that, “Boys have a greater need to explore, invent, achieve something objective, conquer, and compete. They have a need to be meaningfully engaged in pursuits that yield objective results, like rebuilding automobiles, painting a house, cutting firewood, building something that others will admire. They are little kings looking to build a kingdom and furnish it. Idleness (including entertainment) breeds self-loathing and wanderlust.” And also, “The child who is not needed as part of the team will gravitate toward loyalties outside the family.” In other words, our children absolutely need to not just feel needed, they need to know they are needed! It reminds me of another page from Child Guidance that says we need to “let children feel that they are part of the family firm” (p. 126).

A couple of years ago now, my husband did a mulch job for some neighbors. The boys sometimes go along to help out, but this time they didn’t. But, for some reason the gentleman gave my husband a little extra money, designated for the boys, so that they could each purchase a little something. The funny thing was that, when we trekked out to Wal-Mart to buy their gift, they each chose a garden tool! I drove them by the neighbor’s house for them to show him what they had chosen with their money, and imagine his surprise when three young boys marched up to the front door with rake and shovels! He exclaimed, “What’s this? Are you coming to dig a hole?” They simply told him that the tools were what they had chosen with his money. He really did scratch his head over that one, but several years later, when he needed someone to cover his lawn for a few weeks, he gave the job to the boys with the garden tools!

So…we can encourage our kids in the areas that they have an interest, and if we help them to build up their stash of tools appropriate for the task, they will not only be better equipped, but they will also sense that they have our support.

For (not just) boys, the list is almost endless:

  • Garden tools
  • Saws, clippers, and pruners, pocket knives
  • Toolbox tools: hammers,wrenches, screwdrivers, tape measures, drills
  • Power tools
  • Photography equipment
  • Science tools: microscopes, telescopes, magnifying glasses, ID books
  • Rock tumblers, gold pans, metal detectors
  • Knot trying and climbing books, rope
  • Bike fixing supplies: tubes, wrenches, tire tools

For (not just) girls, all of the above, plus:

  • Kitchen essentials: small baking pans, smaller sized oven mitts, aprons, kid cookbooks
  • Knitting needles, crochet hooks, and yarn (Knitting looms are fun and an easy way to make hats and scarves.)
  • Sewing machine and fabric, simple patterns (Boys like this too! My husband always wanted a sewing machine until someone told him they were for girls. But…what about tailors?)
  • Hair cutting supplies
  • Books on wild edibles, compass

The list really could go on and on! I think the point is to get ourselves and our children into a mindset of learning useful skills, and to provide equipment and training so that they gain the confidence to pursue their interests.

Happy learning, and go find some tools!

p.s. The Lord tested me on this on the very next day after I wrote this article. We planned our “first day of school” for that day, only to find that my husband needed help on a project. I struggled, but realized we could be inside “doing school” with him needing help, or I could let the boys go help. I chose the latter, and what a blessing it was to see them working alongside Daddy — with their own tools! We can still maintain the balance of work/study/service. Some days are almost all books, and some are more heavy on the service or work. But, I would not trade the experience that they had working with Daddy — it’s real life, and he really did need them!

Resources:

  1. White, E.G. (1954) Child Guidance. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald.
  2. White, E.G. (1897) Healthful Living. Battle Creek, MI: Medical Missionary Board.
  3. White, E.G. (1901) Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press.

Holidays Bring Opportunities

Thanksgiving holidays are over for Canadians. We’re gearing up for Remembrance Day and Christmas already. If the snow hasn’t flown yet, it will soon and winter will be settling in. For those in the States, Thanksgiving and Christmas are rolling up faster than you can imagine.

Life presents so many opportunities for discussion. One of the advantages in homeschooling is that we can direct difficult conversations — we can answer questions, or pose them when applicable. We can help our children form their own fact-based opinions in these areas. We can help them discover their thoughts, their own ideas. We can help them think through all the options and information. Sharing what others believe, what we believe, and the reasons why helps our children to critically think through the issues and form their own opinions, which will last longer than if we insist they take only hours.

One of the life opportunities I’m grateful for is Halloween. It’s also just around the corner and, even if you don’t celebrate it, we can’t ignore it. We don’t celebrate Halloween in our home, and I’m grateful my boys don’t question that; they don’t enjoy Halloween or any of the decorations. We can’t bury our heads in the sand, and we can’t ignore the celebration of Halloween when it is all around us.

Halloween has been a time of less media because we don’t enjoy shows that highlight Halloween. It does however, open up many conversations. Some of the conversations revolve around vandalism and lead to respecting other people’s property. We live in the city and during Halloween there are houses TP’d, graffiti increases, and things are destroyed. We have conversations about God vs. Satan, the war between good and evil, and how we must choose which side to be on. We discuss healthy eating, even during holidays — showing self-restraint when the temptation is all around us, even being pushed on us. It’s an opportunity to respectfully engage others in conversation, to be kind even when people disagree with us.

Every opportunity is one for education, for improvement of character. Let’s not miss any simply because we don’t like the holiday or event at hand.

Outdoor Activities You Can Fall For

My boys are outdoor country boys through-and-through! They wake up and beg to go outside before breakfast is warm and table is set. We coax them into waiting until their bellies are full (and mom and dad are dressed), and in the summer we have to debate about the usefulness of clothes on a young boy as well. When fall swings around, there is no damper on the boys’ excitement for the outdoors, but we do have to change the experience slightly.

Less Sun, Still Fun?

The sunny, warm summers meant the boys could run free morning, noon, and night. They’d come in the house with crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, roly-polies, caterpillars, lady bugs, frogs, lizards, and handfuls of other cringe-worthy organisms. They knew just where to look to find the best critters.

When fall comes around the leaves die, the tiny bugs and reptiles seem to hide, the wind is cold, and the boys grow…bored. Where we used to coax them into staying inside during the hottest parts of the day, now we have to convince them there is something worth finding outside after the first run of the morning. We don’t get much snow in even the deepest months of winter, but in October? Nothing but gusty, brown cold. Mom and Dad have to put on their thinking caps when the seasons change.

Routine, Routine, Routine

The R-word is one I hate, and I’m not fond of that word either. The only thing routine about our family is the places we go through the week at the same time every week: church, taekwando, Celebrate Recovery, my mom’s, repeat. During the winter, if we don’t slip outdoor play into our daily routine, it just won’t happen.

This year I’ll be talking a lot about practical life schooling, which is my focus in my homeschooling with my boys. They’re using an online curriculum for their main academics, which means Mom’s role is practical life application. Part of the challenge will be to include outdoor activities during cold months!

Practical Outdoor Play Made Easy 

First, make sure you know what your kid likes to do outside, how they like to learn, and how they burn their tiny-human energy. If it’s looking for critters (spatial, logical), then maybe they’d also like to look for other forms of wildlife — or proof of wildlife (nests, scratches, tracks, droppings). If your kid likes to dig in the dirt (kinesthetic), maybe he or she would also like to stack firewood, rake leaves — and jump into them — and paint a fence.

Here is my list for this October/November:

  1. Yard Work: Clearing trash, brush, weeds, leaves away so that next year our yard can flourish (and we can enjoy the snow more thoroughly this winter).
  2. Nature Hikes: To find nuts, nests, bones, turtle shells, etc., that point to life in the woods. Also bird-watching is fun this time of year because some leave, and others arrive.
  3. Building and Maintaining a Bird Feeder: Build a bird house or feeder for those winter birds that stick around. Let the kids photograph the birds and make a book that they can add to as seasons change.
  4. Stacking Firewood: Mainly because the kids unstacked our firewood this summer, playing, they can stack it this fall. Discuss fire, responsibility, safety, and gain a little exercise.
  5. Fun Play Ideas: Dodgeball, catch, freeze tag, Olympic competitions, leaf/finger painting, and an internet’s worth of other outdoor activities to choose from.
  6. Star Gazing: I don’t know one kid that doesn’t like a bonfire on a fall night. This is a great time to star gaze with your students. If you have a telescope of your own: BONUS. If you don’t, your local library may have some to check out.
  7. Local Nature Excursions: Our regional Nature Center has fantastic programs, and many specific to homeschoolers. They also have backpacks full of themes activities for two-week check-out. If you live near to a nature center, conservation area, or zoo, there are many similar programs for homeschoolers. Also, many regions have fairs, fall festivals, and orchards with regular programing.
  8. Camping: My family loves to camp, and unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity this summer. So we’re planning one fall campout before the weather turns too cold for our littles. If you are a camping family, plan ahead, and choose a camping area that has some educational programming during you stay.
  9. Have Fun: Your outdoor play may not be part of your specific schooling, but it is part of staying healthy! Set an example by spending time outdoors, and do something you love to do outdoors. Your enthusiasm will show.
  10. Include Others: Activities can be more fun when you include people you enjoy to hang out with. Spend time outside, then come in for some hot cocoa and popcorn by the fire.

Train Up a Child!

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 KJV.

Train up a child… That’s what we’re trying so hard to do in our lives and with our homeschooling, is it not? And yet, there is some unneeded stress involved in that Bible verse. Many of us were raised with the idea that if we somehow live “right” and follow all the rules, modeling perfection and thus training “up a child in the way he should go,” we will assure the salvation of our children because they “will not depart from it.” Wow! That’s a huge burden. How do we manage to do everything “right”?  And — even if we could — think of the guilt and second-guessing if our kids don’t make all the right decisions.

Recently, I was introduced to the biblical understanding that we are putting the emphasis of this text in the wrong area, and maybe not understanding it as it was originally intended. This isn’t a stern verse that makes us responsible for our kids’ salvation, nor one that refutes our children’s right to the free will which God gives all of us — the free will to choose Him, not be forced into His arms. Instead, this is a wonderful, beautiful verse which invites us to understand our children better, and to instruct them and point them to God in a way that they themselves will best understand.

Take a look at this. The Soncino Books of the Bible offers this definition: “Train up. From the verb is derived the Hebrew word for ‘education’ (chinmuch). In the way he should go. lit. ‘according to his way.’ The intention is not ‘the way of uprightness and good living,’ but ‘for the way in which he is to spend his life.’ Whatever occupation he is later to follow it is necessary to prepare him for it in his early years, because then are habits formed which influence his conduct in manhood” (p. 146).

Likewise, another commentary understands “train” (hanak, in Hebrew) as meaning “to dedicate.” (See these texts as reference: Deuteronomy 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles. 7:5; Daniel 3:2.) These add the idea of steering the child’s conduct into the way of wisdom — dedicating them to God, and preparing them for future responsibilities and adulthood.

“In the way he should go” is better captured in Hebrew as “according to the dictates of his way.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible also points out that “the way he should go” could be understood as “the path especially belonging to, especially fitted for, the individual’s character. The proverb speaks to the closest possible study of each child’s temperament and the adaptation of ‘his way of life’ to that.”

That should be music to the homeschooler’s ear! Our personal goals in Proverbs 22:6 become much clearer. Rather than trying to create the “perfect” child by being “perfect” parents, and thus ensuring their salvation, we are advised to focus on dedicating, understanding, training, and preparing our children for the responsibilities and skills required in adulthood —all while gently leading them to His feet.

Dedicating our children to God is no problem. We probably do this informally every day when we pray for our children. Each family also has personal goals for their homeschooling, and many know what methods of education work best for them. Nonetheless, extra input on understanding, training, and preparing our children is always helpful. Right?

This school year on the SDA Homeschool Families Blog, you will enjoy the advice, experiences, and encouragement of 23 homeschooling authors. They will focus on early childhood through teens; challenges facing everyday homeschoolers, as well as how to meet special needs in some kids; and advice on everything from home management, to life skills, to subject matter, to transcripts, to bringing joy to homeschooling. These volunteer writers from around the world hope to help you in your own homeschooling journey by sharing theirs. And, in the process, you’ll likely find a lot of good tips on how to “train up a child in the way he should go.”

Welcome back!