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)

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Advent: The Jesse Tree Project

One of my biggest joys is the advent season, as we remember and celebrate the birth of Christ our Saviour, the fulfilment of so many prophecies throughout history. One of my biggest frustrations is how Christmas often becomes a celebration of materialism, excess, selfish indulgences and loses almost all of that true meaning. Whilst one would expect that of the world around us, who often simply do not know what Jesus came for, I find it especially hard in church when childrens' (and even adults'!) messages focus more on presents, fun, family, food and sometimes even have adults dressing as Santa in attempt to make the message 'contemporary'.

As a home educating family, how should we keep the focus on what really matters?

If your children are older than mine, you may have come across the Jesse Tree before. (A search engine will provide many helpful links to a range of resources based on this concept). I am surprised I hadn't come across it before, because it is just what I had been looking for.

The concept arises from Isaiah 11, where it is prophesied that a root from Jesse will ultimately be the Messiah. It then goes back through the pivotal events in the Old Testament that point towards the coming Christ, from creation, the fall, the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and their descendents) and other key individuals in the genealogy of Christ (Rahab, Ruth, Esther etc). Each day there is a short Bible reading and an 'emblem' which can be drawn, coloured or made to hang on a 'tree'. There is so much potential for how this can develop -  often our 'school' activities consist of some reading, writing including copywork, drawing and colouring, narration of a story, acting out a story, reading around the area using either the Bible or reference books, and sometimes watching short youtube clips such as biographies or childrens' Bible stories (the Beginners' Bible is particularly good as it is Bible based and does not have too many distracting features in it).

I am looking forward to starting this project tomorrow, and am much in prayer that the boys grow in their understanding of advent and what Christmas really means.

For each day, I have made envelopes with the Bible reference on the outside and the emblems on the inside. This year, I've printed them out and mounted them onto coloured card, and we have a simple branch that is spray painted silver that we will tie them onto. I will use that as the base, and then, depending on interest, energy levels and the schedule for the day, have other related activities up my sleeve. I don't want to push them to do too much, so am needing to temper my enthusiasm slightly with some realism too!

I wonder whether you do anything special for advent, and if you'd like to share some encouragements?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Book Review: Keeping the Kids

Keeping the Kids by David Cloud
Subtitle: How to keep our children from falling prey to the world.
Way of Life Literature

I was given this book by my mother in law which I appreciated very much. She does not always find it easy to talk about spiritual things, although she is a very committed Christian, and the fact that she gave me a book which she found encouraging meant a lot. She knows that this is one of the most important things in our lives, and one which influences many of the decisions we make regarding our lifestyle and the childrens’ education.

It was easy to read, and populated with many anecdotes from Christian parents and church leaders describing what they see as the most important priorities, and also what they see as some of the biggest dangers in both contemporary society but also within much of the contemporary church. I found these different voices extremely helpful to bring depth and perspective to what was being said in the main body of the text.

I will list the chapters, and some of my key reflections on these in a step by step manner – I wish to share some of my challenges and encouragements with you! I also have made a comment on what I found less helpful - and there were some subtleties with which I disagreed, or which I felt were expressed in a very old-fashioned or rigid manner. At times I had to fight to not get distracted and to focus on the majority which was good, helpful and Biblical!

Can we keep the kids? Here the discussion was on how we cannot MAKE our children Christian since this is a work of God’s grace in their hearts. Yet at the same time, there are both instructions regarding the spiritual education of our children and promises of fruit through scripture and it is clear that we can make certain choices which may help or hinder the process.

Priority. Child training must be a major objective, and takes much time, energy, resources, prayer and strength. I have considered priorities several times here on the blog (and here for tagged posts); one of the arguments people use against home schooling is that it takes away time we could use in other, more important ministries. As I read the book, and particularly when I considered some of the cautionary tales recounted, I felt affirmed that our priorities are right.

Conversion – this chapter was interesting as it cautioned against either assuming our children are Christians or assuming that a ‘response’ to the gospel at a young age was a genuine conversion experience.

The Home: Consistent Christian Living. The title says it all – but if we are not demonstrating a living, vibrant relationship with God, then our children will not take our church attendance and Bible reading (and other spiritual activities) seriously. Consistent living does not mean that we have to be perfect – there will be times when we are tired, angry, emotional, apathetic or unkind. The point is that we are quick to repent, are honest with our children and apologise to them if necessary, and in all things ‘conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Christ’.

The Home: The Husband-Wife Relationship. This chapter focussed on the Biblical order of male headship and female submission. This again is not popular in modern society and even in some churches today, but is how God made it. I find freedom in submitting to my husband and seeking to serve him and the family.

Child Discipline – this was similar to most of the books and articles I have read on Biblical discipline, emphasising the need for physical punishment (the ‘rod’), consistency but more than anything that this is executed in love and never in anger. It was helpful once again to read these truths because they are so different to today’s society. I have those in my family who consider us almost abusive for spanking our children or punishing disobedience because ‘modern’ parenting states that we should simply ignore bad behaviour and reward the good. It is encouraging to remember that the Bible gives us clear, timeless instruction, and that there are Bible believing parents around the world who feel likewise.

Separation from the Pop Culture – this chapter focussed on holiness, which I reflected on at the time I was reading it. By and large, it was helpful, covering areas such as television, internet, popular music, mainstream education, dating, unwholesome literature, and inappropriate dress. It was refreshing to read, and made me realise how some churches (probably including the one which I am currently a member of) do not emphasise holiness, purity and separation sufficiently. As I read this chapter, it reaffirmed our decision to not have a television, and to limit to a minimum the amount of ‘screen time’ to which the children are exposed.

Discipleship (once you are sure of Conversion). A reminder that our children are our disciples as we seek to show them how to live godly lives in all areas. Deuteronomy Chapter 6 is the classic passage which talks about the many opportunities which arise daily to teach, encourage, correct, rebuke, and generally illustrate the things of God. Homeschooling comes up often in the book, and is presented as a very positive opportunity to both protect the children from ungodly influences but also to embrace positive opportunities.

The Grandparents – and that they can either be a great blessing or perhaps a hindrance! The chapter would be an encouragement to Christian grandparents as to how they can influence their grandchildren for good, without interfering! (I had to be gracious when reading it, rather than feel bitter for the times when the Christian grandparents don't seem to be doing these things when the opportunity arises!)

There is an appendix entitled ‘How to Lose Your Child Before He is Five’ – this is adapted from a lecture given some 30 years ago, but there is much timeless wisdom there. This can be found in full here:

There were also very complete and helpful reference lists, which I hope to spend more time working through.

What was not so good? There was a tendency throughout the book to have a very black and white perspective. For example, if you do ‘X’ then ‘Y’ will result. I understand the emphasis towards separation and holiness but there were occasions when I felt this was taken a little too far. For example in the chapter on modesty, there would be anecdotes such as ‘I once knew a Sunday school teacher who wore trousers and had short hair. Not surprisingly, all of her Sunday school children grew up to be alcoholics or get divorced’. There were occasions were I felt that God’s grace did not fully come across. However, I do think this needs to be balanced against the very real danger of postmodernism where anything is acceptable, and the trend within some churches today that these things don’t really matter any more because all that matters is the heart.

It was a challenging, encouraging read which I would highly recommend.