Homeschooling was a lifestyle I never dreamed I would tackle. After all, aren’t homeschoolers the type that sew their own clothing, study dead languages, concoct their own toothpaste formulas, and name all their children obscure Bible names like Beulah and Festus? I was certainly not outfitted for such an undertaking. I can’t sew in a straight line. Crafting gives me hives. And spelling is a struggle, so there’s no way I’m teaching Latin or working with names more challenging than Tom or Pam. Bottom line – I would never homeschool my own kids. Until I did.
God has used this journey of homeschooling to grow me. I have learned many creative parenting skills and life lessons. I have learned how to hide for indefinite amounts of time from my children. (I spend A LOT of time with my children. Don’t judge.) I have discovered under-appreciated celebrities like Bill Nye, the Gator Boys, and Barney. I’ve also learned how to sneak an extra half-hour of sleep in the morning by leaving Pop Tarts and juice boxes outside my bedroom door.
In all seriousness, homeschooling has given me the opportunity to disciple my children day in and day out. There have certainly been days when my crew acts like their own cut-throat reality show, “Survivor: Homeschool Edition.” But then there are other days full of warm snuggles, delightful books, and heartfelt conversations in which I praise God for these moments I have to pour into my children.
Discipling our children is not a separate task from the discipline of parenting. To disciple our children is to teach or train them. No matter how we choose to school our children, no matter whether our children live full-time with us, no matter the age of our children, our primary job as Christian parents is to teach our children to follow after Christ. There is not a separate category devoted to teaching our children the things of the Lord. In Deuteronomy 11:18-19, the Lord gives his people this command:
You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Reaching our children’s hearts for the sake of the Gospel should be the primary focus of each day. The Lord never tires of seeking after us. We should be no less diligent in pursuing the hearts of our children.
Summer is upon us. You, sweet mama, may be curiously blinking at your own passel of darlings wondering how to best use these few short months to reach the hearts of your children. Even though there are no Pinterest recipes to follow, no quick-and-easy boxed sets to assemble, and no instant-magic powders to sprinkle, we do have tools at our disposal: prayer, time, and God-centered focus.
Paul writes to his beloved friends these words in Colossians 4:2-5:
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ … that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Pray, mama, pray!
Thank the Lord for the children He has given you to shepherd. Thank Him ahead of time for the opportunities you will have to teach, shape, and mentor your children over the coming months. Ask the Lord for opportunities to speak truth into your children’s lives. Pray that you don’t miss opportunities in the distracting moments of cooking dinner, paying bills, or doing chores. Ask the Lord to give you clarity of speech as you explain the things of God to your children. Pray that the Lord opens your child’s heart to the truth of the Gospel. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom as you budget your time and schedule. Ask the Lord to grant you grace, patience, and kindness as you deal with the day-in, day-out hassles that come with raising a family.
The Lord will hear. He will answer. He will give you opportunity; and when he does, pray that the Lord helps you make the most of that opportunity.
Without time, there can be no discipling or shaping or strengthening. How do we get the time we need to reach our children’s hearts? We need to claim it.
It is so incredibly tempting to fill our summer weeks with camps, instructional programs, vacations, and other recreation. We battle temptations to make our kids the best at everything so we line up the sports camps and music lessons. We yearn for those picturesque family photo-ops to post on social media so we book the best vacations our budget will allow. We hear about all the other marvelous camps our friends’ children are sent to so we feel the pressure to keep up. Before you know it, our child’s back-to-school essay titled “What I Did This Summer” stretches to epic proportions and requires a professional publisher to bind the document for submission.
Rather than fill every moment with busyness, take time to invest in the hearts of your children. Pick a book of the Bible to work through as a family after dinner each night. Have a Bible memory competition. Volunteer to serve at church together or in a needed area in your local community. Take meals to young mothers. Bake cookies or pick flowers for elderly couples in your neighborhood or church family.
When the whirling busyness settles down, when the dizzying pace drifts to a crawl, your children will begin to talk. They will share their thoughts and ask hard questions. This is when your prayers get answered.
Driving through town the other day, my youngest son asked, “Why are there trees?”
I’ll admit, sometimes I brush off such questions as silly or annoying or a complete waste of time. Thankfully, this was not one of those moments. I saw this question as a marvelous way to sing the praises of God.
“God thought trees were a good idea,” I began.
I continued the explanation with how clever God is to think of every detail. We talked about all the things trees are good for: shade, oxygen, fruit, wood, and the prevention of soil erosion. (Don’t be too impressed. We had recently studied ecology in science so he had some personal knowledge to add to the conversation.)
As parents, we should seek to take every opportunity to point our children to God. When littles ask questions about the world around them, point them to the Creative Maker of all things. When older children struggle with friendships, remind them of how graciously Jesus welcomed, loved, and forgave those around him. When teens prefer sitting in front of a video game to serving others, point them to the One who not only washed the feet of his friends but laid down his life for his enemies.
Parenting is more than teaching good manners, fixing healthy meals, and providing a good education. Parenting is a work with an eternal purpose. We are shaping young minds and hearts to seek the Lord always and forever.
About the Author:
Heather was an imaginative, competitive tomboy growing up in the city of Miami. She spent many barefoot days with her younger brother hunting dinosaurs, building forts, transforming robots, and sending Barbie on archaeological digs. In 2000, Heather not only married the most handsome man in the church choir, but also graduated with a degree in elementary education from the University of Miami. Since graduation, Heather has had the privilege of working with children from all across the world in the melting-pot city of Miami as well as homeschooling her two girls and two boys. Heather is currently working on a “Little Pillars,” a curriculum that teaches preschoolers the doctrines of The Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed, and 10 Commandments, to be published this August with CDM. When she’s not driving one of her children somewhere in her apple-red minivan, you can probably find Heather sneaking treats to her daughters’ guinea pigs or curled up on the sofa with a good book. You can find her on Instagram at @Heather Molendyk.