Friday, August 24, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting {Chapter 9}

Discipline That Preaches

The chapter this week has probably been the most practical yet, in that it has some specific steps and instructions for disciplining kids.  Farley lays out a suggested model for discipline, based on eight steps for how to connect discipline to the gospel.  His most important point, I thought, was to "use the discipline event to rehearse the gospel."  (pg. 169)  Unfortunately, he didn't give very much as to what this looks like or sounds like in a real life situation.  I have found this to be very important in my own parenting, so I have had to learn how to do this in a discipline situation.  I haven't done it perfectly - especially in the beginning.  I would say that because my previous understanding of the gospel has really been to hear  revival-type preaching, followed by an altar call where I would "re-dedicate" my life (again) to Jesus, I had a lot to overcome in learning what this meant, so that my poor kids didn't get THAT everytime they were disciplined.  In order to avoid this in your home,  I would suggest that you really dig into some resources regarding what the gospel really is about- make sure you understand it!   Explain it to your kids over and over again in non-discipline settings, so when the emotion of discipline comes about, you don't sound like a hell-fire preacher who is bent on converting their sinful souls.

Last chapter I recommended Tedd Tripp's book, Shepherding a Child's Heart, because it is so careful and thorough about presenting practical steps to follow when disciplining your child.  After reading the chapter this week, I feel even more strongly that you need to read Tripp's book to get a good handle on what Farley is saying about discipline.  I sort of felt like in this chapter that Farley had read Tripp's book, but he breifly summarized (some) of Tripp's method and moved on.  The how-to of discipline, especially the use of corporal discipline can be a very difficult subject and I don't think that Farley does it justice just to claim that it is necessary and biblical.  In this day and age, he really needs to do a more thorough job of explaining his reasoning, answering objections and helping parents to understand this in the right light.  Tripp's book does that.  Not only that, but he emphasizes other very important elements that need to be a part of discipline besides just the corporal discipline.  Tripp discusses child development, authority, biblical and unbiblical goals, unbiblical discipline methods, and then several chapters on biblical methods - three on communication, one on appeal to the conscience and one on "the rod".  This is the kind of thorough coverage of the subject of discipline methods that I appreciated as I was considering how discipline should look in our family. 

In addition to Tedd Tripp's book, I would also highly recommend Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick's book, Give Them Grace.  This book is also very specific in what a conversation with your child sounds like that "rehearses the gospel" - from everyday corrections, to specific discipline events.  Where Gospel-Powered Parenting opened my eyes to the importance of using the gospel and not just the law in my parenting, Give Them Grace and Shepherding a Child's Heart gave me specifics and practical help. 

Here are some links to the books recommended today.  I didn't use any affiliate links, because I don't want you to think I have promoted these books for my own gain.  I won't receive any compensation from your purchasing any of these books.  And you really should get them!

Give Them Grace by Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick
$7.99 for Kindle at Amazon
$9.99 for Paperback at CBD

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
$4.99 for Kindle at Amazon
$8.99 for Paperback at CBD

And this is a good (free!) video from Jessica and Elyse on the content of their book... if you want a little bit more information and insight into what it is about. 
Parenting Issues: A Mother and Daughter Perspective (Elyse Fitzgerald and Jessica Thompson)

Other book club posts can be found on the Book Club Page.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to School Traditions

Last week was our first week of school for the new year.  It is our sixth year homeschooling, and our first with all three boys in grade school.  We have a 1st, 3rd and 5th grader this year!  Six years ago, when it was time to send the oldest to kindergarten, I knew I was excited about homeschooling, but still unsure about what he might be "missing".  All those first day traditions, riding the school bus for the first time, carrying a lunch box, meeting his sweet kindergarten teacher who would read "The Kissing Hand" or one of those other "back to school" first books.  I began to search for some back to school traditions for homeschoolers - I found lots of ideas, but I'm not real crafty, so our traditions became what was realistic for me and seemed the most like "us".   I also wanted it to be something pretty simple - no need to be elaborate, because it is harder to sustain elaborate.  I wanted whatever we chose to be something we could do every year.

We always have a fun breakfast, usually a special request from the boys or a "treat" like waffles with whipped cream and strawberries.  This year it was french toast and bacon, by request.

We are a music loving family, so I usually have a song picked out to play to start our school day and call everyone to the couch to start our day with the Bible.  This year our first week song was "Put on Love" from Seeds Family Worship.  You can hear it here.  It is a fun setting of Colossians 3:12,14a. 
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience... and above all these put on Love!" 

Here are the two youngest, "puttin' it on"...

School Supplies!
It's always fun to get new "stuff"... so I save the fun school supplies for a surprise.

Oh, and a little treat, too.  (Pop Rocks, with an silly note!)

First Day Pictures!
Every year we take pictures by the same tree in the backyard, so we can see how the kids grow.  This year, since they were going on the blog, we used some "disguises" because I decided I don't really like to post individual pics of the boys on the blog for just anyone to download.

These are all pretty simple traditions, but it is fun to at least give the school year a little bit of specialness to start off.  Of course, each year has it's unique traditions too - sometimes we have a field trip the first week, sometimes a special outing or activity.  This year, we ended our "first week" with a pizza party, ice cream and movie night - celebrating our accomplishment!  (No one was very excited about starting up this year, so we needed to celebrate that it was a good week and not as bad as everyone expected.  Some years are like that.)

Your turn.... 
What traditions do you have to celebrate back-to-school?

I'm linking up today with iHomeschooling Network's "Not-Back-To-School" Blog Hop.

Monday, August 20, 2012

All I Have is Christ

I'm singing the gospel this morning with this song from Sovereign Grace running through my head...

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ -
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!

(Song by Jordan Kauflin, copyright Sovereign Grace Music)
Hear it, buy it, get free lead sheet downloads here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Schoolroom Panic Attack

Last week I spent the week cleaning and purging our school room, moving furniture and re-stacking bookshelves with new books and school supplies.  Somewhere in the middle of all the clutter, I had a minor panic attack.  You see, like many of you who may be visiting from the "Not-Back-to-School-Blog-Hop", I have seen lots of blogs with really cute ideas of how to organize a school room - some complete with matching furniture, cute posters, tons of craft supplies and creative learning space.

I sat looking at all my mismatched desks and bookshelves, faded couches, plastic bins and dust bunnies and desperately tried to figure out how to make it look "cute" or "functional" ....or maybe just "clean".  I was suddenly overcome with discouragement.

No matter how many times I rearranged the desks, I couldn't get one corner to accomodate what I had in mind for my desk and not only did I feel my lack of appropriately sized furniture, I felt my lack of ability at working with 3-D space.  (I'm not much of an interior designer.)  I called my husband at work and much to his surprise, started sobbing... not over our lack of space or our lack of stylish furniture, but MY lack... of talent, creativity, spacial awareness, housekeeping, and decorating skills.  Have you ever had one of those snow-ball days?  Well, it didn't end there, the blizzard of self-doubt and self-pity had just begun.  (As usual when I unload my burdens on my husband, he listened empathetically and said he would help me out however he could when he got home.  Poor guy, it's hard to deal with an avalanche of feminine emotion when you are at work!)

In the past when I have had emotional meltdowns over all of my imperfections, unmet expectations and self-critical evaluations, I have eventually tried "talking to myself" using various strategies to try and crawl out of the pit.  It usually sounds something like this...

"You should be thankful for the things that you do have, think of all the people you know who don't even have a school room and wish they did."
"You should be proud that you aren't like all those other people who have to have 'fancy' things to do their school - you are thrifty, a good steward of your resources."

"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself, you should just go take a bath, or eat some chocolate, or splurge at IKEA - you deserve it!"

"You should remember that it isn't about the stuff you have but the stuff you learn that makes a good homeschool."

All of these answers have a little bit of truth to them, and some of them are definitely more "spiritual sounding" than others.  The problem is, none of them do anything to fix my wandering heart.  I may be thankful today, but my heart is prone to wander again.  Is my measure of thankfulness really the solution to the problem?  Being thrifty may be a valuable quality, but don't you think I sound a little prideful about my frugality?  Then there is the self-gratifying indulgence of my chocolate or buying binges - probably not a good long term solution.  And how long is the last argument going to last when it comes to the end of the year and I start assessing what we have learned?  I sense a whole new panic attack coming along... I'll need to get some new coping strategies... 

So where is the hope for me?  What do I really need?  I need power to change my idolatrous heart, not just more "shoulds"... laws that I can't ever live up to.  I don't need more "thankfulness", I need a Savior!  It is not the measure of my thankfulness for my "stuff"  that makes me acceptable to God, or that will make me more content.  It is the measure of Christ's sacrifice that makes me acceptable to God and it is the power of the Holy Spirit that opens my eyes to seeing CHRIST as more beautiful and more valuable than all this world and all the best school rooms have to offer.

So, I WILL be thankful, but not in my relative abundance, or in my humble lack....
I will be thankful for the gospel...  the GOOD news... will you rejoice with me?

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
(Romans 5:1-11)
Thanks be to God!

As for the school room...

It's still hodgepodge, a little less dusty, a little more organized...

...and brightened by some beautiful flowers that my husband brought home for me that day. 

Not a rebuke, a lecture, a quick fix, a to-do list.
Just flowers.
Undeserved love and grace -
just like Jesus.
That's what they remind me of.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Praying for You and Your School Year

This is my prayer for my family as well as yours as you begin (or continue) your school year this year...

"...we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

(Colossians 1:9-14, ESV)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting {Chapter 8}

Foundations of Discipline

Are all children (and yours in particular) born basically good?  Are they sinful only when they have committed their first sin, and accountable to God only when they reach a particular "age of accountability"?  This chapter taught me that our theological beliefs about sin, really do have an effect on how we choose to parent and specifically how we discipline our children. 

It is tempting to look at our sweet babies and think of them as total "innocents", and in a sense they are.  They are completely in need of our care and protection and when those things are neglected, or as in some families they are shamefully abused, we all rightly say, "They are innocent!  They don't deserve that!"  In this sense of the word, I would absolutely, wholeheartedly agree.

In the biblical sense of innocent, however, children and babies are just as corrupted in their nature as we adults, who have been sinning our whole lives.  Because of original sin, and the sin nature that we inherited as members of the human race, we are born with hearts that are oriented wrongly.  That is, turned away from our Creator.  Our natural tendancy, as soon as we are able to express it, is rebellion.

If however, you believe that children are not born tainted by original sin, that they behave badly only because of bad examples, environment or sickness (mental or physical), then you have not rightly understood how the bible explains the basic human condition.  In fact, you may not be aware, but these beliefs I have just described (called Pelagianism) were opposed vigorously by Augustine and  declared a heresy in the year 418 AD at the Council of Carthage.  (Reference here.)

In spite of the fact that these beliefs were long ago considered heresy, you will still find them in existence today.  A person who believes these things might then go on to write a parenting book, espousing techniques meant to deal with the problem of children's disobedience that totally miss the mark.  This book review of one of those parenting books is a good example of how that works.

In our book so far, I think we have seen that Farley has clearly shown us that the main issue of parenting is not managing behavior, and preventing sin but getting to that rebellious, stony heart.  As members of the human race, our hearts are automatically oriented away from our Creator, and sooner or later (usually sooner) we will begin to express that, despite our appearance of sweet innocence.

What are the tools that God gives us as parents for getting to the heart?  They are the same tools that God himself uses as he parents his children.  The discipline and instruction of the Lord  (Eph. 6:4), and the Gospel.  Drawing from Hebrews 12:6 and Proverbs 3:12, Harvey makes it clear that "Biblical discipline always expresses God's love."  Then Harvey goes on to explain two important foundations that effect the how and the why of discipline.  He first emphasizes the importance of understanding the biblical concept of indwelling sin (which struck me the most and I have discussed above.)  Secondly, he explains the importance of authority as a crucial parenting issue, when we see it through biblical eyes - namely, in the authority displayed within the Godhead itself.

Since our culture strongly rejects both of these aspects (indwelling sin and loving, gracious authority), it is important to have a foundational understanding about what the Bible says about these things.

One aspect of this chapter that I didn't feel was as strong was his emphasis on corporal punishment.  Although I tend to agree that corporal punishment is an acceptable and biblical concept, there is a lot left unsaid about this subject that I think could use a stronger treatment.  Harvey's point in this book is more ideological than practical, so I guess I didn't expect that he might go into the details of how punishment is delivered, when it is appropriate, what dangers there might be and numerous other questions that come up when we discuss the form that our punishment takes.  For an excellent and very practical treatment of discipline that includes not only a discussion of biblical corporal punishment as well as other forms of punishment that doesn't neglect addressing heart matters as well, I strongly recommend Tedd Tripp's book, Shepherding a Child's Heart.  What I like the most about his book, is a very detailed description of a controlled, calm and purposeful method of discipline using corporal punishment that is redemptive and restorative in it's implementation.  There is not a single time that I have used Tripp's specific advice on discipline and spanking that it was not beneficial and healing to both the kids and to me as well.  Almost any other time I have spanked without his specific method, I have regretted it.  (This recommendation probably leaves you with more questions than answers, so you will really have to go get the book... and let me know what you think!)

Next week, Harvey will discuss more about what he mentioned at the beginning of this chapter - that "communicating the gospel becomes the end (goal) of effective Christian discipline." (pg 146)

As always, I welcome your comments, criticisms, and questions on this chapter or any other chapter that you have read so far.  You may comment on this page, or any of the other chapter's posts found at the Book Club Page tab.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Prayer for My Children's Mother (Me)

O LORD God of heaven,
The great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, to hear the prayer of Your servant that I now pray before You day and night for my children.  Grant them continual patience and forbearance to live with me, a wicked parent.  For I have sinned against You; I have acted very corruptly against You by forsaking my responsibility to lead them in righteousness and the fear of You;  I have not kept Your commandments, Your statutes, or the rules that You commanded Your servant Moses.
     Prevent them from following my old self - when I am unfaithful to Your Word, when I neglect prayer, fail to redeem the time, speak carelessly, walk foolishly, fail to hope in You, seek great things for myself, become anxious about tomorrow.  Protect them from my own indwelling sin-when I am beset with the fear of man, the cares of the world, or the love of money.  May they never lose confidence that, in spite of my many iniquities and shortcomings, I am Your servant whom You have redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.
     O Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant.  May they delight to fear Your name, and give success to them today, and grant them mercy (Nehemiah 1).

From Setting Their Hope in GOD:  Biblical Intercession for Your Children
by Andrew Case
For a free PDF or e-book visit His Magnificence.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapt. 7}

Gospel Fathers

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to get my husband's input on this chapter, (since it IS about fathers, of course) and I am finally getting around to the post.  I hope you had a chance to talk with your husband too!  First, let's review what the chapter was about.

Main Idea

This chapter is primarily about the importance of fathers as the spiritual leaders of their families.    Farley says, "When men abdicate, their children suffer.  When men assume their proper role, parenting thrives."  (pg. 126)  He quotes lots of statistics and explains why this is true to support what he has said. 

As the parent who is NOT the father, I began to feel a weight of despair.  I would venture to guess that you might have as well?  There are many reasons for this.  You might have a husband who is a non-Christian.  You might have a husband who is a nominal Christian.  You might have a husband who, though he is a Christian doesn't express his faith much, attend bible studies or initiate spiritual discussions with the family.  Or, you might be like me - although your husband is a Christian and a leader, you realize that YOU do not have primary control or influence - (which can be a very scary thing for someone who likes to control everything- like me!)

Farley then goes on to ask the question (that I was already asking!), "What can we do to attract men to our churches, to excite men about fatherhood?"  Here are his three answers: (pg 133)
  1. (Churches should) emphasize the objective truth of the gospel
  2. (Churches should) develop masculine role models (by emphasizing the model of biblical masculinity found in Christ and through men who have been impacted by the gospel)
  3. We should encourage women to promote biblical masculinity.
Since the first two solutions need to come from the local church body and other men, the last solution is really the one we as wives and mothers should focus on, (while trusting in God to provide for our husbands in the first two areas.)

Four Ways Women Can Encourage Biblical Masculinity

Contrary to the often tried, but ineffective methods of nagging, guilting, condemning, worrying, panicking, controlling and usurping - Farley suggests a better way.

  1. Direct the children to their father when they have questions.
  2. Respect your husband especially in front of the children. 
  3. Pray for your husband's masculinity to be defined by Christ's example.
  4. Enourage your husband to lead - not by nagging, but "by calling attention to evidences of grace at work in him".

Some Thoughts...

It can be really difficult for dads to learn to take the reigns of leadership (spiritual leadership especially) in their families.  One reason is they may not have had an example of  Christ-like biblical masculinity as they grew up.  But another reason has to do with the roles and responsibilities that moms take on early in a child's life. 

From the time a baby is conceived mom is pretty much in charge of the child's nurturing and well-being.  The very nature of pregnancy and childbirth tends to make the mom more interested in finding all the best ways to nuture, feed and prepare for the child.  Once the child is born, breastfeeding, sleep patterns and staying at home with the baby can also be primarily the job of the mom.  Although we agreed on the choices for our babies, I was basically the one who did the research, chose what I thought would work best (since I would be at home with them) and shared my findings with my husband.  His job was to say, "Yes dear, can I give you a backrub?"

As we began to make decisions about school, we both agreed that homeschooling was a great choice.  But the tasks of choosing curriculums, methods, schedules and then actually teaching really fell to me.  As a result - nearly all of the leadership functions in the house regarding the kids ended up falling to me.  "Son, listen to your mother," and "Yes dear, can I give you a backrub?" was about all I wanted to hear.

Now my oldest is on the verge of the pre-teens and this statement from William Farley is really starting to hit home...
In terms of intimacy, care, and nurture - crucial functions- Mom's role is primary. But it is equally true that when a child begins to move into that period of differentiation from home and engagement with the world "out there" he or she looks increasingly to the father for direction.  (pg. 131)
In other words, I am starting to see my influence with the boys begin to wain.  They are definitely looking increasingly to their father for direction and identification!  

How can I as a wife and mother encourage, support and assist my husband in taking on this role as spiritual leader when most of the day to day leading has always been on my plate?

Maybe I should ask my husband?!  

So I told my husband that I need some help and wanted his thoughts on something.  He was definitely up for it, so we are just waiting for a date night to finish the conversation.  Here are the questions that I came up with for us... you might want to use them as well, or use them as a starting place to work on some questions that would more uniquely fit your family.

  • As the boys grow older they will begin to differentiate and look to you for spiritual leadership.  How can I encourage that?
  • How can I provide opportunity for that?
  • How can I help you?
  • What are your fears about that?
  • What obstacles will hinder this and how can I assist or help find assistance in dealing with those obstacles?
  • What do I do that hinders your leadership?
  • What do I do that encourages your leadership?
  • What do you think my greatest weakness is in submitting to your leadership?
  • What do you think your greatest weakness is in initiating leadership?
  • Are you still supportive of our decision to homeschool? 
  • What areas do you think we could/should focus more on or less on?
Those are just a few conversations starters - some of them are similar ideas said in different ways. 

Your turn...

What things do you do to encourage your husband's spiritual leadership?

How do you think your responsibilities as the "primary care provider" sometimes contribute to diminishing your husbands leadership role in the family?

Any other thoughts about this chapter?

If you are reading along with us, I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the chapters you have read so far. You can comment here, or on the posts from any of the previous chapters. You can find all of the posts on the new Book Club page.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Great God of Highest Heaven

I have mentioned my love of the Puritan prayers found in the Valley of Vision prayer book.  Sovereign Grace music has a collection of songs based on these prayers, which can be very helpful to me to sing rather than just to read.  Here are the lyrics of one of my favorites, to start your week. 

O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore

I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace

Help me now to live a life
That’s dependent on Your grace
Keep my heart and guard my soul
From the evils that I face
You are worthy to be praised
With my every thought and deed
O great God of highest heaven
Glorify Your Name through me

Words and music by Bob Kauflin
As recorded on Valley of Vision

© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

Hear it here:  Valley of Vision CD

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Prayer for Parenting

I'm busy this week writing lesson plans, going through books, (thinking about) cleaning the school room and starting the countdown to our first day in just four weeks!  In the middle of all that, I really NEED to take the time to pray over our plans and focus on the things that matter most.  But, I have to admit that I'm not a great pray-er.  

I know that I need to first and foremost pray for my boys, but sometimes it seems like I'm just bringing my shopping list before God - first, the staples: Milk, Bread and Eggs (salvation, health and safety).  Then the extras -  character traits I want to see them grow in, or particular needs we have had this week.  I don't like my prayers to feel like a grocery list, so I kind of end up not praying very specifically at all. 

Do you struggle like this, or is it just me?  Anyway, I really want to grow in my prayer life - learning what it is like to really communicate with God, how to persevere in prayer and how to not wander into thinking about my actual grocery shopping list while I pray!

As I start this school year, desiring to incorporate more prayer into my plans, I will share what things have helped, what I have learned and hopefully you will feel comfortable with sharing with me too!  I have found that sometimes it helps to read and pray written prayers to help me to learn how to pray.  I have found great help reading the prayers in the Valley of Vision prayer book.  I also found a resource specifically for praying for your children, called Setting Their Hope in God:  Biblical Intercession for Your Children by Andrew Case.  (It is only 99 cents for Kindle right now!)  I think I might try those resources as part of my morning devotions and when I find something helpful, I will post it here to share with you. 
Last school year, I had taped to the cover of my homeschool planner a prayer that I found at Pastor Scotty Smith's blog over at the Gospel Coalition and I wanted to re-post it here for you.  Here is the link to the source, in case you might want to tape it to your homeschool planner!
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:1-3
Heavenly Father, it’s a liberating joy to address you today as the architect and builder of your own house—including the household of faith and my children’s place in your family. No one cares about and loves our children more than you. I know that now better than ever. Our kids are your heritage.
I grieve the years I spent in pragmatic parenting, assuming if I prayed and parented just right, my kids would be converted at a young age, would never get into big trouble and would be protected from all harm. How na├»ve on my part. But my rejoicing is much greater than my regretting, for you’ve proven yourself faithful to your covenant love… even when I was overbearing and under-believing.
I praise you for rescuing me from parental “laboring in vain”—assuming a burden you never intended parents to bear. O, the arrogant pride of thinking that by our “good parenting” we can take credit for the encouraging things we see in the lives of our children. O, the undue pressure our children must feel when we parent more out of our fear and pride, rather than by your love and grace. O, the miserable unbelief of assuming that by our “bad parenting” we’ve marred our children forever and have limited what you’ll be able to accomplish in the future.
Father, only you can reveal the glory and grace of Jesus to our children; only you can give anyone a new heart. You’ve called us to parent as an act of worship—to parent “as unto you,” not as a way of saving face, making a name for ourselves, or proving our worthiness of your love. I really believe this, but the move from parenting by grit to parenting by grace has often been three steps forward and two steps back. Take me deeper; take me further.
Since our children and grandchildren are your inheritance, teach us how to care for them as humble stewards, not as anxious owners. Give us quick repentances and observable kindnesses. Constantly remind us that you call us to be faithful parents, not “successful” parents. More than anything else, show us how to parent and grandparent in ways that reveal the unsearchable riches of Christ. Keep teaching us how to love and lead your covenant children “in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14 NIV). Father, dazzle and delight our children with your grace. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ faithful and loving name.
How do you make praying for your kids a priority and a habit?  
How do you make it more relational and less like a shopping list? 
What prayer resources do you recommend?
(I look forward to hearing from you!)

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Story of the World - a review (part 2)

{This is a two part review of The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child series by Susan Wise Bauer.  This post will cover the final two books in the series, Vol. 3 – The Early Modern Times and Vol. 4 – The Modern World.}  The previous post covered the first two books in the series, Vol. 1 – Ancient Times and Vol. 2 – The Middle Ages. }

The first year of Story of the World, I was teaching only a 1st grader, the next year a 2nd grader and a Kindergartner. There wasn't too much adjusting for age differences because I was primarily just teaching one child, and the others would listen along, but not really be expected to be responsible for any real content or activities. It was just fun stories. For Year 3, we had both a 3rd grader and a 1st grader and for Year 4, I was teaching all three boys - 4th grade, 2nd grade and Kindergarten. So for the last two years of SOTW I really had to deal with making adjustments for teaching multiple ages. In addition, as SOTW progresses, the work required in the activity book advances and the subject matter (20th century especially) becomes more mature - slavery, holocaust, civil rights, 9/11. In this post, I thought I would share how we negotiated those challenges in our family.

Additionally, Year 3 and Year 4 cover the time periods of the development of the American nation, but since it is a World history program, the emphasis is not on American history. I wanted to make sure that we covered more in that subject area than was offered, so I will share some supplementary materials we used to make sure the boys knew enough about our country's history.

Adjusting for Different Ages

Year 3 of the SOTW was pretty easy to adjust for differences in ages.  All the boys like the coloring pages (it gives them something to do with their hands while I read aloud.)  After reading the chapter section, I would do the comprehension questions orally.  My 1st grader was better at remembering the details and the competition helped motivate the 3rd grader to try hard and remember the answers.  I didn't ask the 1st grader to narrate, at least not every time.  I did begin using the test book this year, but written responses were required only from the oldest, we used the questions in a game-show type review for the others.

Year 4 required the most adjustment for the ages.  Instead of narrating, the book begins to teach outlining and writing from an outline.  We all worked together on completing the outline, but not even the oldest was outlining on his own by the end of the year.  We worked on writing from an outline in our writing curriculum, so we didn't work on it here as well.  We used the tests for both the 4th grader and 2nd grader to do comprehension reviews (much more than the previous year.)  The 4th year of SOTW doesn't include coloring pages anymore, so I ordered a file of coloring pages from the publishers website.  This gave us at least one picture to color for the younger kids (2nd and K), and we also used a few Dover coloring books or online resources as well.
SOTW 4 Coloring pages
Dover Coloring Books (History)
American History Coloring Pages (free)
History Coloring Pages (free)

Adding More American History

The other thing I adjusted for in Year 3 and 4 of SOTW was to add more American history either by spending more time on the stories they did cover, or by adding stories that were left out that I wanted to include.  (How did I add more and still finish one book each year?)  We still read all the stories in the book, did comprehension questions and map exercises.  I didn't do nearly as many of the enrichment activities for these chapters.  I wouldn't say we "skimmed" those chapters, but we didn't linger long on them.  My pace was generally to read one chapter section each day (5 day schedule) and complete the coloring page and map activity for that chapter.  At the end of the chapter, we would spend one day to review the content and any additional reading or activity we had time for.  When we reached a chapter on the Jamestown colony or the Pilgrims we might spend an extra day or two on the sections - completing extra enrichment activities.  We would usually find a historical literature selection to spend even more time on those areas, even after we had moved on in the history text.  (Literature selections we used are at the end of this post.) 

Certain events were significant enough to spend two or three weeks camped out on them and completing a mini unit study. 

Year 3 Mini Unit Studies

13 Colonies (2 weeks)
(library books)

The Revolutionary War (4 weeks)
The American Revolution (Landmark Books) by Bruce Bliven, Jr.
The American Revolution by Alden R. Carter
Land Battles of the Revolutionary War by Diane Smolinski
History Pockets:  The American Revolution (Evan-Moor Publishing)

 (Toy soldiers are great for boys learning about wars - this is the Battle of Bunker Hill.)

Between year 3 and 4 we studied Colorado history by traveling to lots of historical sites for our summer camping trips and reading books on famous people from the time.

Year 4 Mini Unit Studies

Civil War (4 weeks)
Field of Fury by James M. McPherson
History Pockets:  The Civil War (Evan-Moor Publishing)

Westward Expansion  (1 week):
Library books and History Pockets:  Moving West (Evan-Moor publishing)

World War I (1 1/2 weeks):
Library books and
Truce by Jim Murphy
Coloring pages

World War II (3 weeks)
The Good Fight by Stephen E. Ambrose
Coloring pages, library videos, great grandparent interview

Several subjects didn't involve full unit studies, but we focused our project work or extra reading on those subjects:  the great depression, civil rights, space race, fall of communism, 9/11 and the war on terror.

We also wanted to make sure that we memorized all the Presidents of the United States and did a quick overview of what they were known for.  We put each president on our timeline, learned a song to memorize their order and watched a great series on the presidents that gave a quick but helpful overview of each president.  We watched these segments as we came to their time in history.  I recommend this series:   Disney's The American Presidents Video series (Vol. 1-4)

Whew!  That is how we worked in a little more time in American history and still maintained the context of overall world history from the Story of the World.  I hope that is helpful to you if you are using SOTW and wanted to emphasize American History to a greater extent.

Now for our literature lists:

Historical Literature We Enjoyed with Vol. 3

Pocahontas by Joseph Bruchac
Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Robert Bulla
Voyage to Freedom by David Gay  (About the Mayflower)
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes  (Revolutionary War)
Kanousky, the Indian Boy and David Brainerd The Indian's Missionary (
Stowaway by Karen Hesse (About the travels of Captain James Cook)
Duel!  Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words by Dennis Fradin
Seaman by Gail Langer Karwoski  (Lewis and Clark expedition)
Stolen Man:  Story of the Amistad by Barry Louis Polisar
Amos Fortune by Elizabeth Yates  (Slavery) Excellent!!!
Journey of Jesse Smoke by Joseph Bruchac  (Trail of Tears)
The Boy in the Alamo by Margaret Cousins
The Francis Tucket series (Books 1-5) by Gary Paulsen (Oregon Trail, westward adventures)
Zeb Pike, Boy Traveler by Augusta Stevenson
Kit Carson by Ralph Moody

 Historical Literature We Enjoyed with Vol. 4

(This list is my longest, it includes read alouds, independent reads for the two older boys and picture books...)
Hard Gold by Avi (Colorado Gold Rush)
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (homesteading)
Courage to Run:  A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman by Wendy Lawton
The Drinking Gourd by F.N. Monjo (Underground railroad)
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine (slavery)
Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation by Patrice Sherman
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (Illustrated by Michael McCurdy)
Abe Lincoln goes to Washington by Cheryl Harness
Abe Lincoln, the Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters
Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln by Jean Fritz
Iron Thunder by Avi (The Monitor and Merrimac)
The Story of the H.L. Hunley and Queenie's Coin by Fran Hawk (Civil War)
Abraham Lincoln by Ingri D'Aulaire
Escape by Night:  A Civil War Adventure by Laurie Myers
John Brown:  His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix  (Harper's Ferry)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Journal of Sean Sullivan, a Transcontinental Railroad Worker by William Durbin
The Battle for Little Big Horn by Marty Gitlin
The Wild West by Henry Brooks
Sergeant York and the Great War by Tom Skeyhill (WWI)
War Horse by Michael Morpugo (WWI)
"In Flander's Fields" A poem by John McCray (WWI)  Great for memorizing!
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom  (We watched the video, also check out this great virtual tour of the Ten Boom home...
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margo Theis Raven (Berlin airlift)
Balloon Sailors by Diane Swanson (Berlin wall)
Children of the Storm by Natasha Vins (persecution of Christians in USSR)

Monday, July 23, 2012

The God Who Promises Deep Personal Change

"Because Christ lived perfectly, died sufficiently, and rose victoriously, you and I can come out of hiding. We are free to own up to, without fear, the darkest of our thoughts and motives, the ugliest of our words, our most selfish choices, and our most rebellious and unloving actions. We are freed from our bondage to guilt and shame. We are freed from hiding behind accusation, blame, recrimination, and rationalization.
Confession is powerful and effective. It turns guilt into forgiveness. It turns regret into hope. It turns slavery into freedom. It turns you from mourning over your harvest to planting new seeds of faith, repentance, and hope. You see, you are not trapped! Things are not hopeless! The Lord, the great Creator and Savior, is the God who never changes, but at the same time he is the God who promises and produces deep personal change. The changes he makes in us are so foundational that the Bible’s best words describing them are ‘new creation.’ God’s plan is to change us so fundamentally that it is as if we are no longer us; something brand new has been created!"
— Paul David Tripp
Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God
(Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2004), 124

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapter 6}

The First Principle of Parenting

"If you ask parents what is the most important thing they can do to raise children who will follow Christ, some will mention adequate discipline, others enrollment in a Christian school, still others the importance of homeschooling or Bible reading.  They rarely mention example.  Yet example is the first principle of parenting."     William Farley, (pg. 107)
That statement is enough to really put fear into me.  In fact, I really didn't like the whole first part of this chapter.  I felt like a bigger and bigger weight of despair was sitting on my chest.  It is probably what Jesus' disciples felt when Jesus explained the true meaning of the law to them in the Sermon on the Mount.  He showed them how what they thought were "keepable" laws were really deeper heart issues.  Not just "Do not murder" but "Do not hate", not just "Do not commit adultery" but "Do not lust in your heart".  He reveals the depth of our depravity when we realize that we cannot keep God's standards of holiness.  And this is how I felt when I read the statement above.  Even though it would require a lot of effort and commitment from me, I could do all the right actions (homeschooling, bible reading, discipline) that might guarantee that my kids would follow Christ, but if my example is the standard... I am crushed.  Does that mean there is something wrong with the standard?  Is Farley wrong about "example" being the main tool in our toolbox to raise children who follow Christ?  I don't think he is.  I think there are definitely those who have come to Christ in spite of their parents' examples, but if I am thinking solely of what MY responsibility to my kids is, it would not just be words, but a consistant example of what it means to follow God.  Did I mention how much I felt crushed by this?

Christ is the only example that perfectly reflects what it means to follow God.  So, should I just try harder and hopefully I'll come pretty close and God will say, "Well, you tried, I guess that is good enough, no one is perfect, of course, and your heart was in the right place"?  I don't think that is it.  But that is what I would have thought was the right answer for most of my life.  Just try harder.  Farley perfectly describes what I am feeling when he says, "Aware of the importance of example, sincere parents strive to model the gospel - but the harder they try, the more aware of their failings they become."  (pg. 118)

Obviously trying harder is NOT gospel powered parenting.

The answer, Farley says, is humility.

"The key to the family functioning as a redemptive community, where the Gospel is the glue that holds the family together, is parents who so trust in Christ that they are ready and willing to confess their faults to their children."  - Paul David Tripp (quoted on pg. 119)
Let me open up a window on my life to show the opposite of humility... Let's say I show ungodly anger to my children in a moment of frustration and unrestraint.  When I realize my sin, I feel shame- my pride causes me to want to ignore the action and move on.  Listen in on my conversation with myself... "After all, I apologized to them for the same kind of outburst yesterday - they will think that I didn't really mean it.  If I'm constantly apologizing, they won't respect me anymore.  In order to maintain my authority, I am not going to apologize for this, I'm just going to move on.  They were disobeying me, they need to know that they can't continue to push me this far.  In fact, my anger is just the consequences of their continued disobedience!"  OK, that was embarrassing... but do you see how all that guilt, shame, justification and blaming all came from basically the sin of pride?  I don't want to admit (to my children, or to myself) that I don't have it all together!  (I still think that I have some merit in me that deserves the favor that God has given to me.)
So how does the gospel help with my problem?
A few helpful quotes from Farley...
The gospel opens my eyes to who I really am - "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).  "Biblical humility," notes G. A. Pritchard, "is not some self-induced groveling or hang-dog attitude.  Biblical humility is seeing ourselves as we are.  Humility is a response to beholding the holiness of God."  (pg. 118)
"Those who meditate on the message of the cross strive for holiness.  Their efforts only make them more aware of their failings.  This causes them to run to the cross for forgiveness more frequently.  It causes them to need the cross more desperately.  All of this happens because they feel the weight of their sins more biblically."

What is the effect of this humility in parenting?

"Confession sends a crucial message to our children.  It reminds them that, yes, my parents are imperfect, but they are deadly earnest about following Christ, about wanting to change, and about doing things God's way."  (pg. 120)  

And I no longer feel crushed, I feel freed.

I hope that you got as much out of this chapter as I did, even though I really had to wrestle with it.  I didn't touch at all on Farley's emphasis on marriage from this chapter, because it was not the area that struck me most.  Please feel free to comment on that aspect of the chapter if it is what struck you.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment on any chapter that you have finished either here or on that chapter's post.  You can find all the posts here.  I find that writing out my reflections really helps me to cement them - maybe you will too. 

The Story of the World - a review (part one)

{This is a two part review of The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child series by Susan Wise Bauer. This post will cover the first two books in the series, Vol. 1 – Ancient Times and Vol. 2 – The Middle Ages. The next post will cover the final two books in the series, Vol. 3 – The Early Modern Times and Vol. 4 – The Modern World.}
Now that we have finished all four years of The Story of the World series (SOTW), I feel ready to give an assessment of how it has worked for us.  I have found in the past that I have been too quick to recommend a resource without sufficient time to evaluate it  and then either regretted would have tempered my recommendation after I had actually used the entire curriculum or had compared it with something else.  Having used the entire scope of this curriculum now, hopefully my thoughts will be more helpful, rather than just enthusiastic and hopeful. 

I will start off by saying that I do highly recommend this series.  It worked extremely well for us.  No curriculum is perfect, so if you are looking for a perfect curriculum, this is not it, but good luck on your quest!  I will explain what we liked about SOTW, what was challenging for us and also how we changed it to suit the things we either didn’t like or that didn’t work as well for us.


First, an introduction… if you are not already familiar with SOTW, it is world history curriculum for elementary ages (1st – 4th grade) written by Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well Trained Mind – A Guide to Classical Education at Home.  The highlights of world history are taught in chronological order over 4 years starting with Ancient Times (beginnings to the last Roman emperor), then the Middle Ages (Fall of Rome to the Reformation), Early Modern Times (1600 -1850) and the Modern Age (British empire to turn of the 21st century).  Materials for each year include the story book, an activity book/teacher's guide (definitely recommended), and a test book (not necessary, especially in the younger grades).

What We Liked

The Stories – The boys loved history time, because it was basically read-aloud time.  They got to hear well written stories, that happened to be about real people in real places.  When it was time for history, the boys got out their history notebooks and would color a page from the activity book while I read a story to them.  They might also get out their Legos and build something to go along with the story.  Susan writes in an engaging manner with lots of drama and interest for elementary school age kids.  We also loved when we could get the SOTW audio book from the library.  These are recorded by storyteller Jim Weiss who is really fun to listen to.  This is a fun added resource and great for car-schooling!

The Maps and Activities -  After we heard the story, we would complete the map activity from the activity book.  This was a great way to learn geography because it was associated with a story.  It also helped us to review what we learned.  We also enjoyed completing the activities that were suggested in the Activity Book, but I have to admit that I wasn’t brave enough to try and mummify a chicken!  Sometimes the boys made up their own activities just from their interest in the subject – my oldest tried to make his own papyrus from cattail leaves (which didn’t work very well, but was definitely a learning experience!)  We finished the first year with a Roman feast, which everyone loved.

World History – I really liked that this history was truly world history and not just western history.  I have noticed that many homeschool history programs, especially classical history, limit their study to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, but this series includes civilizations all around the world – the Americas, India, Africa and China are all included, at least in the most significant events.

Literature Suggestions – The element of the program that cemented history the most for our boys was the historical literature that we read along with the time period that we were studying.  The Activity Book has lists of recommendations for each chapter of study – you could never possibly read them all, but we were able to find many options that the boys really enjoyed.  Occasionally the list will contain an out of print or hard to find book, so I would find other alternatives.  I will include the list of books that we read for the first two volumes at the end of this post.

Answering an Objection

Many people that I know have really enjoyed this series, but there is one objection that I have heard from some that may cause some to avoid this series.  I have heard people say that it isn’t “Christian” enough.  I think by this objection people may be comparing this book with those from Christian homeschool publishers where every chapter has an explicit reference to Christ, Christianity, the Bible or Christian morality integrated into each subject or chapter.  Admittedly, this book does not do that.  However, to say that a book isn’t explicitly Christian on every page is not to say that it is somehow compromised or anti-Christian. 

Susan Wise Bauer is a Christian author, and includes several important Christian stories in her books.  In Vol. 1, she recounts the stories of Abraham, Joseph, the birth and crucifixion of Christ and the destruction of the temple.  For Christians ,this is not near enough Christian history and they will want to supplement or integrate other biblical history into their study. 

I’m OK with it not being included in my history text – not because I don’t think that the Bible is history, but because I don’t always agree with how homeschool publishers explain this history – their theology may not be the theology that I teach my children. 

As a parent, I want to make sure that the way the biblical history is told matches up with the biblical theology that I believe and that my church teaches.  Without naming names, there are homeschool publishers from all over the theological spectrum and I want to guard the gospel in my children’s education! 

So I will willingly take on the extra task of integrating biblical history into our Ancient History study, early church history and biographies into our Middle Ages study, Reformation stories and missionary biographies into our Modern History curriculum.  (I will list some of our favorite resources along with the literature selections at the end of this post.) 

Finally, if you are interested in this series of books but are unsure about whether they contain enough “Christian” influence, I would suggest reading Ms. Bauer’s own reflections on why she wrote the way she did, in this article.

Historical Literature We Enjoyed with Vol. 1

The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Mary Hoffman
D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths
The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki
Alexander the Great by Jane Bingham
Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld  We loved these books  – a great look at the life of a young boy in Roman times, with a mystery to solve too!
Mystery of the Roman Ransom by Henry Winterfeld
See You Later, Gladiator by Jon Scieszka 
Peril and Peace:  Chronicles of the Ancient Church by Mindy and Brandon Withrow  
This is the first book in the History Lives series – an excellent set of resources.  Subject matter might be too advanced for 1st graders and you may need to verbally edit any sensitive subjects (specifically martyrdoms) but definitely worth adding to your library for reading at a later age.
508142: History Lives Box Set History Lives Box Set

By Mindy Withrow and Brandon Withrow

Let history come alive and learn about early Christianity with this 5 softcover boxed set! Featuring books that span Christianity from 3BC until 1860AD through tomorrow, these books will teach you about important people, events, and places---all the important events that have led to Christianity being what it is today. Books included are:
  • Peril and Peace, Volume 1
  • Monks and Mystics, Volume 2
  • Courage and Conviction, Volume 3
  • Hearts and Hands, Volume 4
  • Rescue and Redeem, Volume 5

Historical Literature We Enjoyed with Vol. 2

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
Monks and Mystics by Mindy and Brandon Withrow (Vol. 2 in the History Lives Series)
Son of Charlemagne by Barbara Willard
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor
Beorn the Proud by Madelieine Polland
The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski 
Knights of the Round Table by Gwen Gross

Joan of Arc by Shana Corey
Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
Courage and Conviction by Mindy and Brandon Withrow (Vol. 3 in the History Lives series)
(Most of these selections were read alouds and a few were read independently, as my son’s reading level developed.)

In my next post (look for it next week!), I will review Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 of the series and address some of our difficulties and accommodations as the subject matter gets more difficult and we began to teach multiple ages, as well as how we integrated more American history into the world history curriculum.

(This post contains affiliate links.)