“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
This week in “Educating the Wholehearted Child” begins the Discipleship Studies Method, and in chapter 10, we start off with the most important study of all – the study of the Bible.
As I have matured spiritually as a Christian, and grown into my role as a homeschooling mother, I have found my focus shifting. I used to put a lot of importance on what my children knew by a certain age – our firstborn could say all of his numbers and letter sounds and names by 2 1/2. I drilled and drilled him until he could do it, because I wanted him to be ahead of everyone else.
4 years later, everything has changed. And it has been changing since the beginning of last school year when my husband initiated family devotions. You see, we always knew in the back of our minds that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), but didn’t really know how to go about TEACHING that to our young children. I praise God that we have fantastic pastoral staff and friends who encouraged the hubby to just start reading God’s word with us and see where it led from there.
This chapter of the Wholehearted Child is so necessary because it is so very easy to get wrapped up in what we want our children to learn, and how much we want them to succeed, that we forget the most important thing: that they learn who God is, what Christ has done for them, and how “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Some of the best quotes from the chapter (and there are too many to list them all!) which really got me thinking and inspired me include:
- …your responsibility to disciple your children is so foundational to your ability to educate them. If you desire to teach your children effectively, their hearts must first be turned to God.
- It is far more important that your children become wholehearted disciples of Jesus Christ than it is that they become well educated.
- Of all the appetites for life and learning that you instill in your children’s hearts, let a love for God’s Word be one that you feed and stimulate every day.
- You must prepare your children to be faithful in their generation, when faith could be questioned or even rejected.
- In an age of information fragmentation and saturation, though, our children need to have their hearts and minds trained to listen to long readings of God’s Word.
- The most effective method for developing the personal devtional habit in your children is for them to see you have personal devotions.
Part of the reason we homeschool is because I have fallen in love with the idea of being able to teach our children from God’s word constantly throughout the day. Learning God’s word has so many different aspects to it, some which I already knew, some which I hadn’t thought about.
When we teach our children God’s word, we need to start off with affirming that God’s word is truth. Sally and Clay suggested studying the origins of the bible and its content, and gave a few very good recommended resources (something else I love about this book – whenever I go, OH! I l’d love to do that, but how? they ALWAYS have some recommendations and a starting point!). If our children can accept God’s word as truth, and have it proven for themselves, then they will have answers when they are questioned and challenged by others.
We also need to place a high value on Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 says “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” There are so many biblical resources out there which contain childish and worldly wisdom that people have come to rely on those instead of just God’s word, straight up. The Bible contains everything we need for wisdom, and its purpose is to bring us to salvation through faith in Christ. One of the ways you can teach your children to have a high value on Scripture is to emphasize that when we are reading God’s word, HE IS SPEAKING. These aren’t just pretty or nice or interesting words on paper – these are God’s Words, and you are having a conversation with him as you read. When your children are able to read well enough, purchase a real, leather-bound bible and teach them to respect it – not because of it’s cover, but because of what it contains – the Holy word of God. Something else I have been wanting to do for a while, and have kept my eye on etsy, is some beautiful Scripture art. It doesn’t have to be lavish and expensive, you can even create your own, but just something simple with a message and Scriptures which are meaningful to your family.
The chapter also talks about the importance of bible reading. This is something that has really inspired me after having read about it. The purpose of reading or listening to long bible passages together, or alone, is not to jam their heads full of as much bible as possible, but rather to train their minds and hearts how to listen and take in what they are hearing, without interruption. I am thankful for my husband in this – during our family devotions, sometimes he will read longer passages for the sake of taking training moments with them and having them sit and REALLY listen. It doesn’t have to be complicated – just share with them the love that you already have for God’s word – use voices and expression to grab their attention, talk about your favourite parts passionately. Some other ways that we have been trying to do this is Audio Bible during quiet time and having our 6 1/2 year old read during his quiet time. Right now he is just using an ESV Bible story book (straight Scripture, but just the stories of the Bible), but I would really like to get him into doing more selective readings, as the Clarksons suggested, from Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels, Acts and others. This is where a good reading schedule and some goals would be helpful!
Again, the time you spend reading the bible together should not be monotonous. You are the one who will set the tone of the time. If you’re dragging your feet and losing the kids attention, cut it off, don’t try to press on through it anyway. Pray and pick it up later. Do your best at the moment, and work them up to longer periods of time. It doesn’t have to be hours on end, but just a good chunk of time where they are focused and you can turn their hearts toward what God has to say to them.
Bible devotions – something I think every individual struggles with at some point for themselves, let alone their family. We all desire for our children to love God’s word, but we’re not sure how to do that. However, if your children see YOUR love for God’s word, they can’t help but take it upon themselves. It is important for them to see you devoting personal time to prayer and studying God’s word. This is the best way to inspire them to it also.
Psalm 119:9-11 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you, let me not wander from your commands. I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you”. If we mean to have devotions with our family, we need to get that element of our relationship with God sorted out first. It is difficult to ask your family to do something you are not willing to yet do yourself on your own.
Neither personal nor family devotions need to be complicated. The main purpose is to instill a love for God’s word. Some of the ways you can help yourself and your family to understand what you are reading is to ask some questions. There are a few good acronyms at use for these, including S(cripture) O(bservation) A(pplication) P(rayer) and A(ask a question) R(ead the Bible) T(alk about it) S(peak to God).
During our family devotions, we try to give each child who is old enough a bible, whether they can read or not. It is important for them to learn to treat God’s word with respect, but also modeling for them what our devotion time should look like – God’s word open in front of us, and focusing on it, not on other things around us. If you can, give each child their own inexpensive bible and then also have them use it (once they are able to read) during personal devotion time, to spend just a few minutes reading and praying on their own. Make sure you ask them what they learned after!
Another inspiration that came through reading this chapter is “training your children how to search the Scriptures in order to find answers and guidance in their lives.” We need to be “showing them that the ‘word of God is living and active‘ and ‘judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12-13“. Our kids are still very young (6 1/2, 4 1/2, 2 1/2), but studying the bible is important even at a young age.
A caution the Clarksons presented here is to be careful with the colorfully illustrated children’s bibles that are out there. While these can be good if used properly, sometimes they become an easy substitute to actually studying straight Scripture. Don’t be afraid of using JUST GOD’S WORD to teach your children and not relying on the cutesy resources. There are some fantastic, 100% bible-based resources out there to help in studying God’s word – some I would highly recommend include Pearables “The Narrow Way“, Apologia “What We Believe” and “How to Study Your Bible for Kids” by Kay Arthur.
No matter their age, you can teach your children how to study their bible. Start with knowledge about the bible, historical context, events, people, general doctrine – our Awana program is fantastic in helping with this as it teaches them in the Sparks level the books of the bible and a lot of general doctrine. Be careful to not just rely on church resources and teaching though! It is more important that the foundation is coming directly from you! Study topics of the bible (this is where I love our Narrow Way curriculum as it talks about biblical character, such as faith, virtue, knowledge, and so on), then when they’re older (they suggest 9-10), get into inductive and written study, which is “letting Scripture speak for itself and then letting it speak to you”. Written is something I still struggle with, but I am learning, and having the different acronyms (SOAP and ARTS) available help to focus the attention on what God’s word is really saying.
The final section in the chapter is on biblical instruction. This is one of the most daunting tasks of parenting – instruction in righteousness. But it is only daunting because too often we try to rely on our own strength and wisdom to accomplish it, forgetting that God’s word has all the wisdom we need! We have been very grateful for godly parents who have helped us to know how to instruct our children in the Word, a church which encourages and fosters disciples of young children and adults.
As is mentioned, “The goal of biblical instruction is righteous living, not just right answers.” I always think of Deuteronomy 6:7 whenever I think of biblical instruction. “You shall teach them diligently to your children”. My heart swells up with urgency and passion as I think about the things which I want to teach our children from the word. Again, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 speak to this – “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” There is the why. The how can sometimes be overwhelming.
A great place to start is a book we have been using lately “For Instruction in Righteousness”. God’s word is FULL of examples and commands, for teaching and instructing us how to live. This book helps to really pull together the passages of scripture which address certain attitudes, such as defiance, disobedience, bullying, etc. and helps you to apply God’s word to these situations in order to instruct your children in what God’s word has to say about it. Using stories (Jesus told parables so we would be able to understand certain concepts better), illustrations (having the kids draw pictures about passages), object lessons (creation and science for examples) and by asking questions, we can help these words of God to be constantly in our children’s hearts as we teach them to them diligently.
If I had to summarize in a nutshell, biblical instruction should not just be confined to our family or personal devotions and bible reading. Rather it should be a way of thinking, doing, breathing almost, and an approach which penetrates every waking and sleeping moment of every day, and is the reason why and how we teach our children.
I hope you are encouraged by this review on chapter 10 and that you are inspired to read Educating the Wholehearted Child. It has been an amazing encouragement for me in how to better approach teaching and training our children.