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.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

What this blog is about (Part 2)

Somebody reading this blog asked me what my aims were. Is it primarily a Home Education resource? Or am I also seeking to address Biblical parenting which is of course a far broader topic? And what is the balance between hard facts (news items, online resources, research articles and statistics) and my more personal reflections (what I have enjoyed, what has been challenging, what has been helpful, what has not...)?

Whilst seeking to remain focussed as a resource for those becoming interested in Home Education, the discussions of Biblical parenting and personal reflections also have their place, as I seek to share the adventure that our family has started. Our decision to home educate has been informed by our overall worldview, and in particular our understanding of what the Bible teaches us about parenting and family; to separate out simply the homes education resources would be an artificial simplification of what we are seeking to achieve as we raise our children.

Browsing other blogs on the internet, I find the ones which are most user-friendly for me are those where I can rapidly access the type of information I am looking for; I get frustrated with ones which try to cover too much or have no clear index. In attempt to make things easier for readers here, I have added labels to each post, which are displayed on the right hand side of the page. Postings are categorised according to their main focus, whether that be solid facts and resources, or whether it be the more personal, reflective items.

I hope this format helps you find the type of article which encourages you as you explore Home Education.

Monday, 25 June 2012

What do our children see in us?

Yesterday we listened to a John Piper sermon entitled 'One generation shall praise your works to another' based on Psalm 145. I found it inspirational!

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/one-generation-shall-praise-your-works-to-another

There is a lot of truth contained here! Firstly, the need for parents to assume their God-given responsibility for the spiritual education of their children (athough it is not wrong to involve others in this). Secondly, the importance of churches supporting parents in this task is discussed.

What really spoke to me was about what the educationalists might term the 'hidden curriculum' or the 'silent curriculum'. It is not always what we say which has the greatest impact upon our children, but our attitudes, and our approach to situations. It is not simply a matter of giving our children a solid doctrinal basis, teaching them 'memory verses' having them learn the facts about God (although these things do have a role). More importantly, they should see their parents living lives of true worship.

It is not enough simply to teach, but to live our lives as an example. That is challenging and sobering! Do I negate the values I try to teach through an indifferent attitude? Does I speak one message with my mouth, and another with my life? Do my priorities truly reflect the most important things?

I pray that as I learn to love my Lord more and more that my children will hear me praise His works to them. I pray that daily they see heartfelt and spontaneous thanksgiving, and a desire to serve Him and honour Him even when costly. I pray that I am in no way a hindrance to my children's growing relationship with Him. And I pray that God gives me the strength, perseverence and grace to continue in the wonderful task I have been given! We cannot do this in our own strength, and daily depend on His provision.


Friday, 22 June 2012

Languages

I read this article on the BBC news website yesterday:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18531751

It does not surprise me. Often I feel quite ashamed to be British, and to be so poor at languages. Also, it is simply intuitive that a younger child will learn a language more easily; last year in France, my then two year old mastered basic words and greetings in French, and used them with other children in a swingpark. Friends of mine who are overseas missionaries often tell me how easily their children master the complex sounds and tones of other languages (I am thinking here of some of the Asian languages, where a word can completely change meaning if spoken in the wrong tone).

So really, I need to think more concretely about language learning for my toddlers. The main question that catches me out is, 'Which language?'. In Britain, children tend to be taught French. That has its uses, but would it be the best? I suppose there is also Francophone Africa to consider too... As a family, we believe we will work overseas again in the future, but as yet are unclear about where! If we were still in Africa, or knew where we were heading, the choice of language would be easy. One of the Chinese languages would be an asset, especially with the development of China. Or maybe Spanish, opening up both parts of Europe but also Latin America...

I wonder whether any of you have any thoughts on this? Have you started language learning yet? Which language did you choose and why? Is there a particular curriculum you follow? Thanks for sharing!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Choosing a curriculum

I think this must be one of the most discussed areas among those who are new to home education! Which curriculum do you choose? How do you choose a curriculum? Should one use a curriculum at all, or is the whole point of home education that we are free from such things?

I found this document outlining the pros and cons of the different methods very useful:

http://www.successful-homeschooling.com/support-files/best-homeschool-curriculum.pdf

Following a brief introduction explaining how we must first identify what our goals as a family are, and seek to identify the learning style of our child(ren), Carletta Sanders then gives a brief overview of each of the major curricula that are used by home educating families. So, if you are confused as to what Charlotte Mason taught, or what 'Classical Homeschooling' comprises; if you have heard of literature-based homeschooling, or of the Montessori methods; if you are keen to explore online options or if you would rather employ a more 'relaxed' methodology or even 'unschooling', this guide talks you through the benefits and pitfalls. Links are provided for those who wish to read more detail.

I found this a very helpful guide. Many of the terms I had come across during my reading around the area were clearly explained, and I no longer felt that it was a strange new world with a different language. It is a short, easy read, whereas other material I have come across is offputtingly detailed!

Our children are still very young, and I do not yet feel the need to follow a structured curriculum. I would probably describe our style as 'eclectic' at the moment; we draw on several sources, but more often we let the boys lead the way and no day is quite like another. However, I am sure I will be referring back to the document as they grow and their individual learning styles become more apparent.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Challenge: The 'best' use of time?


Sometimes when people see how we are choosing to raise our children, we are questioned regarding whether this is the best use of our time. Some friends suggest that I need some ‘me time’, time to shop, or drink coffee with friends, to sleep or do ‘something fun’. Others with different concerns ask whether it is good for a Christian woman to spend so much time with her own family as it leaves little time for other forms of ministry. How can I give time to somebody who really needs to talk? Or devote time to study the Bible with a person who is asking the really important questions about life and death? Sometimes I am acutely aware when I go to toddler groups and other such activities that I don’t have as much time for chatting with the other parents, and spend the larger proportion of time with my boys. Is this really the best use of time? Would I not be better to have more help with the childcare to free me up for other, more important things?

On the subject of ‘me time’, I found this Blog posting helpful:


I have written about the use of time recently, as I reflected on how everything has a ‘time and a season’. But it is a very important topic which I imagine will come up time after time, in different forms, as the years pass. It is important for me to have my thoughts straight on this one! Of course there are days when I would love to be able to spontaneously meet a friend in a coffee shop. Or to feel able to have a deeper conversation rather than snatched fragments between running after children and answering their many questions! For others, it might be a different thing they yearn for. And yes, there are days when I question the value of what I am doing. Would I be better to do as many others do, and put the boys in nursery from an early age so that I can work more hours at my profession, and be a more ‘productive member of society’? Am I wasting my training and my own education? And is it really, truly better for the children to have so much parental involvement? Would they be better educated elsewhere? Would they be better entertained and more stimulated? (Are these necessarily things that I would want? Is there a risk of dependence on entertainment and stimulation?) Even missionaries I know will happily send their seven year olds to boarding school so they can continue ‘the work of the Lord’ unhindered. They assure me that their children thrive on the experience, and that because they are at a Christian school there are no issues of conflicting worldview. Should I do likewise? 

The main question I want to consider today is this: Is it a wise use of a Christian’s time to home educate their children, or would it be better to have more time for their own ministry? (And I think it is important to comment, that my eldest child has just turned three - but the UK government is increasingly promoting nursery placements for up to 15 hours per week even at this age.)

A Christian has responsibility for their own family. The first letter of Timothy describes the exemplary Christian who is to be a leader in the church: ‘one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with full reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?) (I Timothy 3:5-6) You could ask whether that has anything to do with the amount of parental input, and whether a few hours a day in nursery or pre-school really goes against this principle. But observing my three year old and two year old, I see so many times where firm correction and discipline is necessary! Often the behaviours that lead up to something more dramatic (such as a tearful outburst or altercation) have begun with something much smaller. There are days when I have to supervise everything closely, repeatedly correcting, instructing, listening, praising and encouraging. I can find this a challenge with just two toddlers and a baby who I know well, and who I care about deeply. I cannot see how this level of discipline, love and encouragement can be provided by even the most capable and well meaning adults with responsibility for larger numbers of children. I sometimes shudder to imagine what they would get up to if given more 'freedom'! Later, Timothy writes again, ‘But if anybody does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ (1 Timothy 5:8). The context of this passage relates to financial provision, but the principle can surely be extrapolated; we must provide for the needs of our own family as a priority, and then consider those of others. Anecdotally, I have known young adults raised in Christian families (both as overseas missionary children and here in the UK) who have felt very hurt that their parents seem to have invested more in the local community than in their lives. I would never want my boys to feel that way.

A second point which I think is of great importance is to remember that our children are not a hindrance as we seek to serve God! And we must not make them feel that they are getting in the way, or are an inconvenience, but rather encourage them to join with us as we seek to serve God. Three of the four gospel writers record an incident where Jesus showed just how much he valued children, whereas His disciples thought of them as an inconvenience. From the gospel of Luke, ‘Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 18:15-16) Recently, I was responsible for arranging a barbecue for students, and yet I felt I wasn’t able to participate fully due to supervising my children. I must confess, I felt a little frustrated. But afterwards, several individuals commented to me how lovely it was to see a Christian family, and how they found the way we interacted with one another to be a good role model. There have been other occasions where single people have enjoyed spending an afternoon with us, even though it can be somewhat noisy, messy and chaotic. They value being part of a family, and this itself can open up conversations and important discussions. Again, much has been written about this, and I would like to recommend some of the works of Edith Schaeffer, particularly, ‘What is a Family?’ She writes beautifully of how God uses the whole family to bless, encourage and serve others.


I have not covered this topic comprehensively, and I am sure it will be a recurring theme! I wonder whether any other home educators have faced similar challenges, and would like to share their experiences and where they found encouragement?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Parenting with Hope


We listen to a sermon together on Sunday evenings, and this week we heard John Piper speaking on ‘Parenting with Hope’ from Micah Chapter 7. We are currently choosing sermons with a focus on parenting, children or family life as we are keen to have a strong Biblical foundation for the choices we make, and are eager to hear different views and opinions discussed. (And if you as a reader, can recommend any resources that have helped you, please do so!)


Sometimes I wish things could be more prescriptive. For example, if you were to do A, B and C, then the guaranteed result will be X, Y and Z. But in His sovereign grace, God makes us unique individuals with free choice; we are not robots. Things will never be as simple as obeying a list of instructions, and the Pharisees (the religious people of Jesus’ day) discovered this time after time. God gives us freedom, but within that, He also gives guiding principles.

So how does one ‘Parent with Hope’? From Micah 7, we are encouraged to do so with a broken-hearted boldness. Whilst being convicted, and indeed broken-hearted, regarding our own shortcomings, failures and sin, we are reminded of the very nature of the God in whom we put our hope. ‘Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea’. (Micah 7:18-19)

Yes, there will be challenges along the way, sometimes severe trials. But we are encouraged not to focus on these, and not to focus on our humanity and our attempts to resolve these in our own strength. Rather, ‘If you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth. For you died, and your life his hidden with Christ in God’. (Colossians 3:1-3)

Sometimes I hear a sermon and ask myself, ‘Yes, but what does this look like?’ ‘How will this change the way I live today?’ ‘How will this change me, and help me walk closer to God?’ As I asked these questions last night, I was encouraged that God is far greater than any situation. And yet He also cares about the small details and no concern is too small for Him either. ‘Look at the birds of the air for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?’ (Matthew 6:26) I am encouraged by the examples given in the Bible of real individuals with very human strengths and shortcomings who put their trust in God, such as those summarised in Hebrews Chapter 11. I am reassured that when tempted to doubt, question or despair, that ‘No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it’. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So, listen to the sermon if you have time (it is about 50 minutes). And be encouraged to put your trust and confidence in our amazing God as you seek to continue ‘parenting with hope’.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Our highest aim for our children


What is your greatest desire for your children? What is the most important thing? If you were to describe your aims and your goals as a parent, what would they be? What kind of adult do you want them to become? How would you define ‘success’ or ‘failure’? Are these terms that we should use at all? What legacy would you like to leave your child with?

If I had been asked this question many years ago, I would have said that I wanted my child to be a ‘good all-rounder’, or maybe that I wanted them ‘to reach their full potential’. I would have wanted them to do well academically, to be good at a sport or two and to be able to play a musical instrument. I would have wanted them to have one or two close friends, and generally to be likeable and popular. I would have wanted them to have a healthy self-confidence, and not to be hindered by insecurity. In summary, I would have wanted them to be good at everything, but possibly not exceptional (that might lead to its own problems...). I think many parents would say something similar, but really are these the most important things?

I know of parents who invest huge amounts of time and effort to get their children into the ‘right school’ to give them the best chance, to really ‘achieve their potential’. I hear of ‘tiger parents’ who aggressively make sure their child studies, practices and trains until they achieve excellence. Or ‘helicopter parents’ who hover around, supervising and micro-managing every aspect of their childs’ development until they reach adulthood. I know of others who have moved location, remortgaged properties and otherwise made huge financial sacrifices to ensure their child has ‘the best possible education’. I have friends I rarely see, since they spend most of their time ferrying one child or another to endless extra-curricular activities, whilst the child themselves often seems bored and exhausted. What is the highest goal? What truly matters?

Four years ago last week, my husband stood up at the funeral of our 15 week old daughter and spoke about her life. A comment that caused quite a bit of discussion (and indeed, some offence and controversy!) was that her death was not a tragedy, but that rather a true tragedy would have been for her to reach adulthood having ‘achieved’ much in terms of this world, but to have rejected the truth about God. I have certainty that my daughter is now perfectly restored in heaven, rejoicing eternally in our Lord, and that one day we shall be re-united. This matters more to me than any worldly human achievement would have done. 

‘For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’ Matthew 16:26

I had known these truths in theory, and through my daughter’s life I came to understand them more fully. As Christians, we often ‘know’ the correct answers, but do we really believe them? We might quote verses from the Bible, or talk about how our child’s eternal future is our greatest concern, but do we truly live as though that is true? Do the choices we make regarding the upbringing of our children (as well as all other aspects of our lives) truly reflect that we are ‘not of the world’ (John 17:14, John 15:19)? Or do we blend in? Is our faith something which we keep for Sundays and mid-week meetings, or is it something which permeates every aspect of our being? 

During my first pregnancy, I reflected on Psalm 139: ‘For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skilfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.’ Psalm 139:13-16. I prayed that my child would grow up to serve and honour God. My prayer was answered, and every single worldly hope I had for her was shattered! Through her life, every friend, colleague and relative of ours heard the truth about Jesus Christ, heard it clearly, and many were deeply challenged. Through a life of 15 weeks, our daughter achieved more eternally than many who live far longer. And in that I rejoice.

Four years later, I am blessed with three lively, healthy boys. What are my hopes for them? For what do I pray? For what do I invest my time, energy, prayers, tears, and every other resource I have available? I pray that they may grow up to love and to serve God. I pray that their lives will be shaped by a desire to serve Him and honour Him. Do I want them to be ‘happy’? ‘Successful’? ‘Good all-rounders?’ Inasmuch as these things will enable them to bear fruit for God, then yes I do. But these cannot, and must not, be our highest goals. 

Take courage from the words of our Saviour: ‘If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated You. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.’ (John 15:18-19) People will consider us mad. People will criticise us, and not understand our goals. At times, that can shake our confidence. Jesus knew we would feel that way. He reassures us, ‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome to world.’ (John 16:33)

It is my hope and prayer that as you read this reflection, you consider what truly matters for your children. I pray that you have strength to make the right decisions even in the face of hostility and criticism from those who may be close to you, from whom you may crave approval. There will be days when you need the confidence of the Apostle Paul: ‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing (the days when we are exhausted, feel misunderstood, perhaps even question why we are doing what we are, whether it truly is worth the sacrifices, commitment and misunderstanding), yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (as we receive strength from God). For our light affliction which is but for a moment (perhaps fatigue, misunderstanding, perhaps more overt opposition and criticism, perhaps financial sacrifice, perhaps loneliness), is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (to know that our childs’ eternal future is secure or that we are at least giving them every opportunity to hear the truth), while we do not look at the things which are seen (do not focus on the trial, resisting the temptation of despair or self-pity), but at the things which are not seen (the eternal hope of our children). For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

National Home Education Research Institute

I find it both interesting and encouraging to read research relating to home education. Statistically, children who are home educated perform well both academically and socially; have high rates of acceptance into and success at further and higher education; and almost universally go on to become productive members of society. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which aspect of home education is responsible for this; critics would argue that any child who has interested and involved parents will have similar outcomes. I don't think the precise breakdown of causation is important, but rather that we should be encouraged that home education as a lifestyle is scientifically proven to be of benefit in many realms of life.

Additionally, a personal comment relates to how 'success ' is defined. What is the most important goal for our children? Is it simply to achieve well academically, socially, in extra-curricular activites, and eventually in the workplace? I would argue that a far greater achievement would be for my children to grow up secure in their relationship with God, knowing that they are working towards a far more glorious eternal destiny.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18: 'For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.'

Notwithstanding this important caveat, I would like to share this link to the National (USA that is, so findings may not be 100% generalisable to a UK population) Home Education Research Institute:

http://nheri.org/

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Honouring parents in the Lord


Exodus 20:12: ‘Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.’

Ephesians 6:1-3: ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

At church this morning, the pastor spoke about the importance of honouring one’s father and mother. He spoke both to parents and to children about the importance of maintaining discipline and respect within the home, and how the consequences of shortcomings in this area may predispose to the breaking of subsequent commandments. All of us have seen this in our children, how one of the first areas where sin becomes apparent is the dishonouring and disobedience of parents. And most of us work hard to correct this, seeking to ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ (Proverbs 22:6)

However, during the night I came across an article on the BBC website, which I heard discussed on Radio 4 this morning:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18367053. This 'amusing' article discusses the reasons why all parents become 'annoying, embarassing and/ or ridiculous' as a child enters their teenage years. In our culture, it is not expected that children should respect their parents. If these are the type of views which are widely held regarding the relationship of children to their parents, then is it surprising that such children go on to disobey, disrespect and dishonour? Is it surprising that parents view respect and obedience as ideals from a former generation, not to be realistically attained today?

As Christian parents, we must pray that we can stand firm against the tide of contemporary culture. We should raise our children to respect and honour us, whilst seeking ourselves not to do anything to cause them to stumble on that point. We also have the responsibility: Ephesians 6:4: ‘And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.’