About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)

Friday 28 March 2014

'Teach them Diligently' by Lou Priolo: Book Review

As a Christian parent, I am keen to learn how to better bring my children up biblically. So, my attention was captured by a book entitled ‘Teach them diligently: How to use the Scriptures in child training’ by Lou Priolo. Having finished reading it this evening, I would recommend it for other parents who wish to know how best to use the Bible to teach, discipline and train our children.

A key premise is the sufficiency of Scripture. ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness’ (2 Tim 3:16); we should not need anything else. The author describes each of these areas in more detail, with chapters on ‘The Scriptures and your children’, ‘Teaching the Scriptures’, ‘Convicting with the Scriptures’, ‘Correcting with the Scriptures’, ‘Training with the Scriptures’, ‘The rod and reproof’ and ‘Learning to use life’s instruction manual’. There are also helpful appendices which chart specific sin issues and relevant scriptures, outline some questions which can be used to help bring conviction to a child, and which outline some methods of working through the book of Proverbs.

There were several key challenges:

1)      As parents, we must know Scripture ourselves before we can seek to use it. We are taught to ‘study and do our best to present ourselves to God as approved, who correctly handle the word of God’; this takes work. It must become a priority in our lives, if it is not already. One of my favourite passages is Deuteronomy Chapter 6 where we are challenged to talk with our children about the things of God as we get up and when we go to bed, when we walk along the road together, when we share a meal – throughout many opportunities that arise throughout daily life; we cannot do this if we do not know and love those Scriptures.

2)      There is no short cut, or easy route to being able to handle Scripture well. But even the small efforts we make are richly rewarded.

3)      Behavioural problems should be described appropriately in Biblical language to make it clear firstly what sin has been committed, but also to provide a Biblical solution. For example, the Bible does not say anything about being ‘shy’, but does speak volumes about ‘pride’ and ‘fear’ which are two of the main underlying reasons for a child being shy. The author warns against modern ‘psychobabble’ and questionable diagnoses which may prevent us in seeing sin for what it is.

4)      We should train our children gently, not expecting them to immediately grasp things and get it right straight away. He uses the analogy of teaching to do gymnastic moves, where these are built in stages with correction of error, continual supervision and encouragement until mastery is achieved; the word ‘gumnazo’ (from which gymnasium is derived’) is used frequently in the Bible to talk about such training. The author expands the analogy in a way which I found illuminating.

So, how will this change how I live?

1)      Thankfulness that I have a husband who is equally committed to this, and that we have established routines of family Bible time each morning and evening; this is not a panacea, but is a helpful foundation to build upon. I realise how many wives have husbands who may not lead the family Biblically, and I mustn’t take my blessing here for granted

2)      Greater resolve to meditate on Scripture and really seek to understand it so that I can help my children understand and apply it to their lives. Yes, there were times reading the book when I felt a bit overwhelmed by how much more I have to learn.

3)      To seek to identify the heart issue, the sin issue, which leads to behaviours which are not right. Not to be distracted by the whining (or whatever it might be), but to try and get to the heart of the matter

4)      To pray more and more. I think we do live in an increasingly godless society, and even within the church there can be an expectation that children cannot really understand the Bible, or that strict biblical discipline is ‘old fashioned’.  Sometimes I feel people think we are extreme for seeking to base the boys’ upbringing on the Bible. Yet this book encouraged me to persevere, to make the most of each opportunity, to see it as our privilege and responsibility as Christian parents. We need to pray for strength, perseverance and the ability to stand in the face of temptation to compromise

As a Christian parent, there can be nothing more important than seeking to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. If you need encouragement on where to start, and how to use the Bible effectively to do this, let me encourage you to read ‘Teach them Diligently’.

Monday 24 March 2014

Active mums have active children

Sometimes I wonder how on earth people managed to get their research funded because it seems so obvious what the answer will be. Today's gem is that active mothers have more active children. But it also comments that for many women, they become less active after having children, and that in modern life there are many competing priorities for time. There is so much evidence that activity, exercise, being out of doors, experiencing more of nature etc are good for children, and I find it a sad paradox that in contrast, modern society seems to want to pull us away from such priorities. I'm glad that as an active home schooling parent that my whole family get to enjoy time together being active!

Sunday 23 March 2014

Vibrant African life

So, we have had a week here, close to the equator in a bustling, lively city. It's quite different to anything I've known before - apparently 3 million people live here, and the traffic in certain parts has to be seen to be believed. There is rarely silence, and one can barely hear the ciccadas at night because of the music blaring from all directions. Yet it is Africa, and more importantly, it is where we believe God wants our family to be right now.

Some highlights:

1) Day 1: Boys rush through to the living room and pull back the curtains. 'Mummy, is that the "wings of the dawn"?' - we've been reading Psalm 139 and talking about how God is with us, wherever we are. 'If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me and your right hand will hold me fast'. Psalm 139:9-10

2) Day 1: About half an hour later. Four year old boy with magnifying glass, describing the cockroach he has discovered on the kitchen floor. 'Mummy, it has beautiful wings, with a hint of red and a hint of yellow'. Yes darling, how delightful!

3) Markets. I love the bustle, the noise, the smells, the chaos and the pleasure in a bit of gentle bartering. It's great for the children to see fresh produce and how it is not all 'perfect' in appearance, but is good and delicious. It's easy to see what is in season and the quality (and the prices) make it so very clear.

4) The National Museum. Really quite wonderful - I liked the outdoor part which had lots of different styles of banda (mud-hut) and detail about how they were constructed. There was also a section with old Rolls Royces etc which I presume belonged to some erstwhile dictators. Inside, it was more like a home-school science project, but entertaining nonetheless.

5) Delicious yummy foods that you can buy at the side of the road. In this country, there are more types of banana than any other. And many staples are made from mashed plantain or banana. It's fun to try new things.

6) The 4 year olds have started to keep a journal. We ask them to narrate to us what they have done the day before, and then to draw a picture. It's quite telling how they remember quite different things, and it will be a really good record for them to have

7) Going to church. For me, there is something so beautiful about the way you can walk into a church in a strange land, and immediately be part of a family of believers. In heaven, every tribe and tongue will sing His praises, and sometimes in a foreign land I believe one can catch a glimpse of that.

8) Resourcefulness in inventing new games. We have a patterned rug in our living room, with twelve squares. Each has a picture on it - a boat, or a bush, or butterflies. It's quite 1970s and not altogether beautiful. But the boys make up stories and jump from square to square as they move on to the next part. Lots of the stories involve adventures on the high seas and discoveries of new lands.

9) The delight in discovering new trees, flowers, birds AND INSECTS that are different to those we see in the UK. I'm amazed (but I suppose I should come to expect it as they are bright little boys) at the attention to detail that goes into their process of description and classification. Who needs books when one can go out exploring!

10) Being together as a family. I could have come for a shorter period alone. Perhaps that would have been a more typical way of going about the process (its a site visit for some studies I'm setting up, and exploring collaborations and future opportunities). But we are together, my husband has taken a month of unpaid leave, and the whole family benefits. As I often say, this is one thing we have committed to, and the whole home schooling lifestyle is ideal to maximise such opportunities.

So, a short post and the internet is not great so I won't spend time with cross-references today. I hope and pray that wherever you are, you can maximise the unique opportunities that present themselves to your family this week.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Do you ever worry about the future? Do you feel anxious about where you will be next year, or in five years or maybe have concerns about your longer term future? As a homeschooler, do you feel anxious that you don’t have a plan beyond the end of the week (or even the end of the day)? Or a rough idea for the term or academic year, but not beyond?

There are many blogs, books, articles, resources, curricula and conferences which help equip home educators with ideas, inspiration, resources, support, structures, schedules, equipment and consumables. I think this is a good thing. But the flip-side can be that one becomes overwhelmed by the amount of choice, starts to second guess the child-led approach which is currently serving the family well, and anxiety can creep in. Or at least it can for me!

Another area which can make me anxious is thinking longer term. Is there a pressure as a home educator to prove that your methods are working? Is there a pressure (even when you may confidently state that you are not bothered by goals and targets, and that is a major reason for choosing a less formalised and structured approach) to be ‘keeping up’ with your childrens’ peers in the mainstream education sector? Is there a pressure to ‘perform’, to demonstrate that your standards of discipline, character formation and inter-personal relationships are as excellent as the academic progress being made?

Other areas where anxiety can creep in is as you seek to know the Lord’s guidance in your life. Should you continue to home school? Are you in the correct employment? Should you be serving elsewhere, perhaps in a more needy area or overseas? Do you need to do any formalised Bible training? How can you effectively serve whilst raising a young family who need so much of your time and attention during the day?
Let me encourage you. Jesus knew that we would be prone to become anxious, prone to take on burdens that He did not give us, that we are prone to listen to the lies of the devil, and do not always see Him as our everything. Let me encourage you that He knows and cares about the concerns of your heart today, this evening, this week, throughout your life.

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matthew 11:28-29. Recently my boys have enjoyed an abridged version of Pilgrim’s Progress and have been particularly struck by the visualisation of a physical burden being removed at the cross. Do you know that liberty?

‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 4:6-7. God knows and cares about each and every situation. There is nothing too big or too small for Him to both care about, and to have sufficient power to help you in.

It would take a long time to go through all the verses about freedom from fear, about looking to the example of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field to see how much the Lord cares about the smallest of details, about the amazing power of God to intervene in situations which might appear hopeless. Hebrews Chapter 11 brings great encouragement as we look at the stories of faith throughout the Bible; one thing that brings me particular encouragement is that not all of the stories had happy endings at the time. Instead those faithful people trusted in God and looked towards heaven. We are not promised an easy ride, but what we are promised is that God’s grace is always sufficient, and that He will give us the strength, hope, grace and wisdom for each and every day.

This time next week we’ll be on our way to Africa. I don’t know where we will stay. We don’t know what the city will be like, how we will travel around, what kind of food we will eat (and I'm a little limited following recent surgery). We have many unanswered questions. At the same time, there seems to be an endless list of tasks that we would like to achieve before we go, things to sort out in the house, people we’d like to see or speak to, deadlines to get ahead on. But rather than worrying about these things, I can choose to trust that God knows the answers to all of my questions, and that He is faithful.

‘In all your ways acknowledge Him’ the Proverb challenges us. And when I reflected on this as I ran to work the other day, I realised that there were places where I was acknowledging myself, my professional skills, our organisation, our resourcefulness. These things may be gifts of God, but ultimately, it is only God who gives us the purpose for each day.

This next month will bring new adventures, and for the boys, a whole new chapter of their holistic education. I need not worry about lesson plans for that time, nor for a curriculum to slip back into on return, but rather should seek to embrace the unique opportunities of each day. (Noting that our children are young, and also our chosen ‘style’ of home education, were we to categorise ourselves which I try to avoid (!) would be very much a child-led, making the most of each and every opportunity in daily life type approach).

If you have anxieties today, either regarding the short or the longer term, regarding your childrens’ education or about other matters, then bring them to God. He knows. He cares. And He will give you strength and wisdom for whatever today (and tomorrow!) bring.

Sunday 2 March 2014


I am often challenged by how we choose to speak about things, and the effects that can have on both ourselves and others. It sounds like a cliche, but choosing to have a 'gratitude attitude' can really make a difference to your outlook on life, your relationship with God, your Christian service and your Christian witness to those around you. Similarly, it is really important to consider how we speak about challenges, trials, frustrations and perhaps more than anything else, how we speak about our children.

I have not blogged as much as I would like recently. This evening, I simply want to reflect and give thanks for encouragements in our lives, with particular reference to our lifestyle as homeschoolers.

1) I am well! After several years of daily vomiting, I had surgery which fixed the problem and feel strong again. There can be a temptation to feel frustrated and bitter about the fact it took so long to get it sorted out (I knew from the start what the problem was and what was needed). But that leaves out the fact that God is sovereign and His timing is perfect. He uses trials and challenges to build our faith. ' These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.' 1 Peter 1:7 It is easy to be impatient and think we know better than God - 'I'd be so much more useful if I were fully well' etc. God gave me the strength I needed every day during the illness. Not often much more than that, but sufficient. As the Apostle Paul is famous for saying, 'But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.' 2 Cor 12:9

2) We are planning another 'field trip' to a different country in sub-Saharan Africa. Our lifestyle involves quite a lot of moving around. Both parents work part time, so one of us is always home for the children, and so when there is a need to move somewhere for work, we embrace it as an opportunity. The boys are getting excited about seeing the source of the Nile, the tombs of the kings, experiencing the warm African rain, visiting the market places and sleeping in a new place (whether that be in a bed, on the floor, all sharing a bed - we don't yet know!) I am always amazed at how much they absorb through these experiences, and it is my prayer that we guide them in their understanding of new situations. More than anything, I pray that they see God at work through it all. There are some steps of faith - many details are unclear even though we leave in just two weeks. It is a short-term trip which may open up future opportunities. We are trying to teach the boys to live by faith. I love the global perspective that this gives them - they know of other people across the world who seek to bring the good news of Jesus to those who have never heard of Him. They know quite a lot about countries and customs, such as different styles of clothing (such as the way women must be more modest in some countries) or food (they loved eating from the communal pot in West Africa!). I am aware that 'third culture kids' can experience some challenges later on, through never having felt 'grounded' in one particular place or society. We pray that we are able to provide the stability of our family home, and to keep open clear communication with the boys should challenges arise in the future.

3) Along similar lines to this global perspective, they are loving their stories of 'Ten Boys who Changed the World' etc from Lightkeepers. I'd recommend these biographies. There are 5 books in each set - boys who made history, who used their talents, who didn't give in, who changed the world.... They are short, and focus a lot on the life of the person as a child and as they became a Christian, with the amazing things they did for God only at the end. There are they structured questions to consider and pray about. My boys want to grow up to do great things for God, and find these books inspiring. I'm also quite astonished at how much reformation history they are imbibing through these snapshots - it encompasses what Charlotte Mason taught about 'living books' and how children learn when they can visualise, identify with and relate to a situation.

4) Our local group of Christian home-educators has brought much encouragement, through both the online discussions (Facebook) and meeting face to face. We're able to share ideas and resources, but also just to meet with other like-minded families and that brings encouragement. I think one of the biggest challenges homeschoolers meet is isolation. That you can't comment on being tired, or busy, or frustrated without some kindly (or not so kindly) person suggesting that all would be well should you simply 'put them in school like everybody else'. Let me encourage you if you are feeling isolated - search for other home schooling families in your neighbourhood. You only need one or two like-minded individuals to make a real difference.

5) Generally just enjoying the pace of things at the moment. The older boys are learning to read and write gradually, without all that much specific effort or structure. The eldest was inspired that Adoniram Judson learnt to read from the Bible at age 4 and has resolved to do likewise! The youngest is picking things up every day, and for me it is generally more fulfilling than a year ago, because we are starting to see some of the fruit of what we are doing. Yes, there are new challenges, but in the face of these it is important to look back and give thanks for the victories, for the accomplishments, for those issues which are no longer issues, for the maturing of a character, for the conquering (or at least, focussed battling against) a bad habit or temptation.

6) My church family bring me encouragement. I've reflected quite a lot in the past about family-orientated worship such as that exemplified by Voddie Baugham and others. I don't know if we really have found this in the UK. But I've still been encouraged. The boys sit reasonably through the service and listen, and ask appropriate questions when they get home. They love to sing. One day, early on, a man turned to me at the end of the service. I thought he was going to tell me off for the boys making a bit of noise, but instead said to me, 'Isn't it wonderful to hear childrens' voices in the house of the Lord'. What a lovely attitude. The boys seem more settled than they have done before, and the parents are gradually getting more involved. God has guided us, and we are thankful.

These are simply a few of the many encouragements and blessings God has given us at this time in our lives. We are thankful that we can home educate, that we can see beyond the four walls of an educational establishment or the limitations of a particular curriculum or method. We do not know what the future will hold, for either the parents or the children in our family. But we do know that God is good, and promises to guide us. It remains an exciting adventure to live by faith, to trust God's leading on a daily basis in the smaller aspects of life (and education) and also in the bigger decisions (such as what continent to live on).

I pray that you know encouragement this week.