December has arrived, and with it all the extra responsibilities holidays bring. It is a month of exceptions to our established homeschool routines, which sometimes leaves us feeling a bit guilty. This month I would like to comment on the importance of some of the things we think of as “exceptions,” addressing my remarks to fellow Christians.
In October a thirteen-year-old relative came to live with us. He is the product of the public schools and was raised in a single-parent home without a firm spiritual foundation. He holds an interesting mixture of ideas. He was certain that people could become angels by doing a good deed because of the movies he’s watched. He believes in God, but sees no problem with lying in order to get whatever he wants. He has no empathy. He sees no reason to help anyone unless he gets something out of it, and feels like a victim when asked to do anything he doesn’t want to do.
He has a high IQ, but shows little indication of reasoning skills when it comes to the real world. He sells the clothes off his back to have pocket money, unable to recognize, or care, that his mother is then losing money. He thinks in catch phrases, holding contradictory platitudes with ease. He says he doesn’t need school because he won’t need a job to make money, he’ll just live off the land. Moments later he talks about all the money he’ll make when he sells his valuable coins and cards—and all the things he will buy.
Why am I discussing this? To illustrate the great importance of all you are doing that contributes to the moral perspective and Godly character being shaped in each of your children. Below is a list of priorities that were always part of my own children’s lives, and are now being included in my lesson plans for our newest resident. My daughter is almost twenty-one, my son is seventeen. Among other things, they are spiritually strong, interested in helping others, do not see themselves as victims, and reason extremely well, traits I want to develop in our relative.
Although you probably won’t find anything new here, I am hoping that you will recognize the practices that continue to influence your children positively, even when you take a break from your homeschool routine.
Daily devotions: scripture, discussion, and prayer. Sometimes this would take an especially long time because the children would have questions. However, this time was essential in developing their world view and ability to defend their faith.
Personal Bible reading and memorization of scripture. Because I wanted this to become a personal habit, I scheduled it into their school day to be certain that it would not be left undone because of the pressure of academic assignments. My daughter is a junior at the University of Delaware, and despite a heavy course load, continues to read her Bible and pray every day.
Reading out loud and assigning reading of classic literature and movies, and biographies of Christians in order to reinforce proper moral development. This was always followed by regular discussion which included comments on whether or not particular behaviors were right or wrong, and why. (What lessons were learned? What was the moral of the story? Is the theme in keeping with Biblical teaching?) Biographies are especially helpful in getting rid of the “poor me” attitude so many children have today.
History from the perspective of why the people lived as they did. Studies also included Bible history and Christian history. Understanding the circumstances that lead to choices and the consequences of those choices helps children learn how to analyze current problems and possible solutions. It also reminds them that life involves struggles—they aren’t victims.
Looking for and providing opportunities several times throughout the year for the children to become involved in an activity or service beyond family life. They didn’t always want to do whatever activity I had chosen. I simply reiterated why it was important—and required. Eventually they looked for opportunities on their own. Today they recognize that the most unhappy people they know are self-absorbed and encourage them to find some way to help others.
Activities have included visiting the sick, conducting services or providing music for the elderly in nursing homes, preparing meals or boxes of necessities for the needy, volunteering time to help other children with lessons, and regular prayer for others.
Planning activities as part of school that allowed the children to make gifts to give at Christmas.
Providing opportunities for the children to earn money for gift giving and personal spending. Both of the above goals contributed to their appreciation of what others give to them.
Specific lessons and regular practice of housekeeping and personal grooming skills, and manners. Kids don’t start out unselfish and eager to help mom. They prefer to be waited on, live without baths, and eat without manners. This is the area our new family member finds most challenging, and protests most frequently. We often discuss the why’s behind the rules so that he will eventually have a new attitude. We have changed his outward behavior, but until his attitude changes, his behavior will be correct only in our home, never on his own.
Our routine has also always included weekly attendance at church and involvement in church activities—midweek prayer service, special activities for the youth, and so on. I am happy to say that the thirteen year old willingly joins us in all of these activities, asks questions during family devotions, and reads the Bible on his own. The Lord is at work in his life.
You may be tired and a bit overwhelmed, but you are making a difference. Have a blessed holiday season!