Tag Archives: faith teaching

52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids: When You Need to AIM [Answer It More]

52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids When You Need to AIM

We wanted our children to ask questions–and lots of them! We wanted to be their answerer as much as possible. Thus, we “trained” them to ask questions–by answering them freely and endlessly.

Ray is the best answerer I have ever met (honest!). He is the one who made me come up with the little acronym that we teach at our parenting seminars. I have watched him day in and day out, year in and year out, answer a question. Then he paused and continued on with more answers and more answers and more answers.

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The Impact of Teaching Our Children to Minister to “the Least of These”


The homeschooled kids in our area start out young (as early as ten years old with their parent) serving in the One Heart Disability Ministry. Look at the joy that children bring to those with disabilities!




A Facebook post just came through from my daughter and her husband concerning their 

disability ministry, One Heart:


“Got some sad news this morning that Charlie, one of our dear One Heart members passed away this Wednesday night. Charlie always made us smile and brought us joy. I bet he’s bringing other people joy in Heaven now! He always answered questions about the Bible with, ‘Jesus died on the cross for us.’ What a simple, amazing truth. Last year at the Talent Show he sang ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ So blessed that he was part of our lives!”


My son-in-law Joseph with Charlie


If you have heard Ray and I speak in our parenting seminar, “Raising Kids With Character,” or at a homeschooling convention, you know that we are big advocates of teaching children to serve at young ages. You might also know that we believe there is a hierarchy of service outlined in the Bible that teaches children to serve the Lord at home–to serve their own families—first, followed by reaching out to those locally and finally to the “uttermost parts of the world.”



“Journey Through Easter”–drama and walk through (with petting zoo!)–is always a hit with the One Heart attendees


Without going into the entire seminar session, I will give you some keys that have led us to this thought process:

1. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
2. “He who does not provide for his own family is worse than an infidel.”
3. Parable of the talents
4. Serve in your own “Jerusalem” then your state/region….then the uttermost parts of the earth


One of my sons helping a One Heart client fill in his VBS book



We began this teaching with our kids when they were two or three years old–teaching them to pick up around the house, unload the silverware in the dishwasher, help put away laundry, etc. Then they continued to learn household skills that they could/would eventually use in serving others.

As they grew, they served with us–starting with setting up chairs for small group or homeschool support group meetings and moving into going with us to nursing homes and other local outreaches. 

Soon the time came for them to go “out” and serve others–that is, they had learned to serve their family so well and so cheerfully and so diligently that they could take the skills that they had learned here and serve on their own.


The skills that we have built into our children during their formative years–cooking, cleaning, organizing, serving, music, drama, reading, writing, leading, Bible teaching/studying, etc.—are used over and over by our young adults in their various ministries

This has looked different for different kids–from preaching in young adult services to leading/directing dramas in church to singing on the praise team to working in children’s ministries (locally and at state homeschool conventions) to “going to the uttermost parts of the earth”–such as taking wheelchairs around the world with Joni and Friends; serving at state capitols every weekday for a semester; leading drama teams of teens in summer drama traveling around the midwest or southern USA; and even starting a ministry that would some day reach over one hundred disabled adults every week for many years.

Boys’ sports night (along with a trophy for each client!) is always a hit with the One Heart male clients

The latter is what this post is going to focus on–and the impact that teaching our children to minister to “the least of these” really has on our children–and their futures.

When our third child, Cami, was seventeen years old, she served at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat (the world-wide disability ministry of Joni Ereckson Tada) for two weeks. At the end of the retreat, she told the leaders there that she wanted to do something similar to the retreat back home–on an ongoing basis. They told her to go back to her pastors and tell them and see what she can start. 

One Heart “Special Deliveries” is a yearly outreach to nearly three hundred disabled adults in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area

Cami was a senior in high school when she began the One Heart Disability Ministry (One heart…one soul..is worth it…). She had trouble getting volunteers (it is difficult to work with disabled people–and many adults do not want to get involved), but she started rounding up her younger sister and little brothers and their friends, and before she knew it, she had a weekly ministry, sort of a “Sunday school” every Tuesday night for adults with cognitive disabilities. And it grew. And grew. And grew.

The joy that One Heart brings to the lives of those who attend is unmistakable

Within two years, she had her associates degree in church ministry with an emphasis on disability ministry, and she was asked to come on staff at the church as the Disability Ministry Director, the “official” head of One Heart Disability Ministry.

Four years ago Cami married a young man who has a paraplegic brother and cousin with severe brain injury–and also a heart for the disabled and broken, much like Cami has. They have continued leading One Heart together with their combined compassion, love, and selflessness.


In addition to the weekly services that are held with over one hundred disabled attendees all throughout the school year, One Heart delivers gifts and goodies to up to three hundred disabled adults in the Fort Wayne are every Christmas, hosts a summer VBS, and has other special events throughout the year. 

My message today is not what kids can do when they are trained in so many skills (that would take a book–and I would love to write it!); nor is it about having kids serve in general (though that is a good idea too!). My message today is this:

Teaching our children to minister to “the least of these”–the widows, elderly, disabled, and orphaned–has the potential of having a bigger impact than almost any other ministry or service opportunity they could do.

Why do you suppose this is the case?

It is consistent with Scripture–“do not only invite those who can invite you back”; “care for the widows and orphans”; and Jesus’ ministry to the blind, mentally challenged, poor, hungry, homeless, etc.

It builds an empathy in our children that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Truly, we can tell them there are poor children who do not have enough to eat, but until they serve food to them in a summer ministry in the park, they cannot comprehend that. We can tell them that there are people whose brains do not work like ours do and they cannot do for themselves, but until they go week after week and listen to these people tell the same stories over and over or teach them to color or tell them about Jesus, they cannot FEEL the feelings that we should as Christians feel for those less fortunate than we.




Our four youngest children started working in One Heart with Cami as soon as they could be trusted to fully obey their older siblings and really work hard without parental supervision (not be tempted to play ball in the gym during the gym night but instead stay focused on the people they were there to serve). This was between the ages of eight and ten for all of them. 

And as a result, they are four of the most sensitive, compassionate kids I have ever known. 

Would they have developed this sensitivity and compassion without serving “the least of these” in an ongoing manner? 

Maybe. Maybe not. But I know that this consistent outreach–having to give up their own interests one evening a week, being responsible for their parts (teaching, serving refreshments, leading games and crafts, etc.), and learning to love and reach out to those who are “different” and extremely-mentally challenged–has had a huge impact on the kinds of people that they are growing up to be. 




P.S. Cami and Joseph are expecting their first baby in January, and Cami recently posted the status below. It is such a blessing to think that my grandson is going to start learning to serve “the least of these” from babyhood.




Funny story from One Heart last night….(this is even better than last week’s story!) I (Cami) was closing the evening in prayer with a full classroom of people and as I stood in front with my eyes closed, I feel someone patting my belly. I look down (mid prayer) and I see Susie, a One Heart member with down syndrome, just patting my belly and smiling as if she was talking to the baby. It was adorable and hilarious all at the same time. I got through the prayer without cracking up too much and dismissed everyone. Love it that the One Heart people are so excited about our baby. Can’t wait until he is here and can meet everyone. He is loved already!”


Does your nursery have a Bible?

Nursery Bible

 I still smile as I envision this beautiful picture Bible, The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, by Kenneth Taylor, sitting atop my nursery dresser, part of the decor of every one of my nurseries–from the pastel “Care Bear” motiff nearly thirty years ago to the last one, a dozen years ago, with toys and hues of deep green and navy. It didn’t matter the color scheme or decorating theme, this Bible was at home in every nursery.

I smile even more, though, when I think back to the hundreds of mornings in which I snatched my little angelic being from his or her crib (after we put the toys in the toy basket in the corner of the crib–you can never start teaching “chores” too early!), telling that child how much Mommy loves her, how much Daddy loves her, how much Brother loves her, how much Sister loves her, and how much Jesus loves her.

I wrapped that sweet bundle in that day’s favorite blankie, and the two of us got cozy in the nursery’s rocking chair. Depending on the age, we would nurse, rock, sing, recite rhymes and verses (or sing verses), and talk about how amazing she was, how soft she was, how great she was going to be in God’s kingdom.

When the feeding and singing were done, it was Bible time–actually, it was “Little Eyes” Bible time–for that is what my toddlers and preschoolers called this precious nursery Bible. (I get misty-eyed thinking of the toddler snatching that Bible off the dresser and following me around with it, saying, “Little Eyes Bible, Mommy?” I have to keep myself from wishing I had stopped what I was doing and read more often…)

After a story or two (the stories are short, just perfect for toddlers or young preschoolers), the “Little Eyes” Bible would get propped back up on the dresser, that cherished spot where this beautiful nursery Bible stood for nearly two decades. And we would start our day, busy, full, precious days that nearly always began with the nursery Bible.


Note: For a thorough review (and where to purchase the original version of this Bible used), see the following link from an earlier blog post: http://charactertrainingfromtheheart.blogspot.com/2010/01/day-thirty-two-start-young-with-bible.html

Why a New Year’s Resolution With the Word MORE in it Will Probably Not Be Realized


 

I recently looked up top resolutions for the new year—and saw some interesting lists. They were the typical ones you would expect—lose weight, exercise, get out of debt, eat more healthfully, spend time with family, etc.
But what struck me most was the recurring use of the word MORE.
+Exercise MORE
+Spend MORE time with family
+Get MORE organized
+Pay off MORE bills
+Cook MORE healthy foods
What exactly does a resolution that has the word MORE in it even mean?
MORE than what? By what measuring stick? How will you know when you have achieved it?
Resolutions that contain the word MORE will likely not be realized simply because they are too general, too abstract, too non-checkable—if that were a word.
Any change—be it a New Year’s resolution or a beginning of the school year plan or a new family schedule must be quantitative in order to be met. In other words, there has to be some sort of method by which the resolver can see whether or not the resolution, plan, habit, or schedule has been met.
My husband and I are problem solvers—both of us. Sometimes we butt heads because he has an idea to solve a problem at the same time that I have another, albeit superior, idea. Smile… More often than not, though, the fact that we are both problem solvers has not been a negative but rather an amazing way to propel us to accomplish goals for our family.
In our problem solving, we have had to be extremely specific in what the steps to success were—no use of the words MORE, better, less, fewer etc.
Rather than saying that we would read the Bible or worship with the kids MORE, we said that we would have devotions more often than we didn’t. (This was one of our favorite benchmarks for many good things with our kids through the year–more often than not!)
Rather than saying that Ray would meet with our boys MORE to mentor them, we said that he would meet once a week per boy—or once a month per boy—or whatever the goal was.
Rather than saying that I would read with a new reader MORE, I said that I would read two times a day with the new reader—right after breakfast while the olders cleaned the kitchen and right before I began dinner preparations (with another older!).
The other thing we have found in our quest to be problem solvers is that we can’t solve too many problems all at the same time! In our parenting seminar, Raising Kids With Character,” we encourage parents to choose one or two things from each session that really spoke to them—one or two things that they want to implement or utilize right away in their homes. This keeps parents who have just sat through six hours of parenting lectures from being so overwhelmed that they are unable to implement any of the tips and strategies.
Throughout our thirty-one years of parenting, we have tried to tackle one problem or aspect of our family that needed changed per week (and later one per month or so). We sat down together and decided what one thing we would work on—and exactly how we would work on it (without using those taboo words of MORE, better, etc.!).
Sometimes we want lots of changes immediately! We are so quick to see the areas in our family that need work—and maybe there are many areas that we need to work on (we could always think of many!)….but if we set out to change everything all at one time, we will seldom change anything.
If you have a dozen things you would like to work on this year, consider doing one per month—and really dedicate a month to making that one thing happen…with a plan of attack that is measurable and concrete and doable. Then when that one is realized, add another the following month and so on.
Too many resolutions and too many vague words are both enemies of real change and problem solving. So try to make FEWER resolutions and keep them BETTER! Smile….

Christmas in the Car–reprint

Tonight as we drove home from an extended family Christmas gathering, reading aloud and singing, I was reminded of an old article I wrote for our newsletter several years ago—Christmas in the Car. I will post it in its entirety below—gotta sneak in those family times any chance we get as our kids get older!

Christmas in the Car
From 2004:

If your children are growing up as fast as ours are, and if you travel distances to church, piano lessons, grandparents, etc. as we do, you might want to try some of our “Christmas in the Car” tips. Basically, every year I see the holiday time slipping away from us. The girls are taking college classes; off to Spanish or piano; teaching their own guitar, language arts, and piano students; working at their jobs; and more. Every time I think we’re going to have a sing-along/reading time tonight, someone announces that she has a Spanish test tomorrow and has to study all evening! Thus, our “Christmas in the Car” time was born.

We spend a great deal of time in the vehicle each week—driving to lessons, church, grandparents, etc.—all forty-five minutes away from us minimum. Being the efficiency expert that I am (of sorts!), I began utilizing this time in the vehicle to keep some of our holiday traditions alive. Try some of our “Christmas in the Car” ideas—and keep those traditions going strong:

*Sing carols as you drive.

*Listen to Christmas radio dramas (Focus on the Family has good ones), Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue Christmas stories, Christmas books on tape, Adventures in Oddysey Christmas stories, etc. as you are driving.

*Sing your way through the Christmas story. Start with “Mary, Did You Know?” and move on to “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” then move onto anything having to do with the shepherds (“The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High”). Next move into the birth/after the birth with “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger,” and “We Three Kings.” Lastly, sing of the joy of his arrival: “Joy to the World” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

*Tell the Christmas story in one sentence increments as you go around the van, person-by-person. (This gets interesting with the little ones who might have them fleeing Herod’s wrath before Jesus is even born!)

*If a passenger can read without being sick, you might read your way through a favorite (pictureless) holiday book. We enjoy reading Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado and The Birth by Gene Edwards. Everyone looks forward to reading another chapter the next time we get in the van.

*Likewise, we read “devotional” type books about Christmas while we drive. This year, we are enjoying short chapters in the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (see review). We have also enjoyed Christmas Stories From the Heart, The Christmas Reader, and more in years past.

*Use the driving time to memorize the Christmas story from the book of Luke. (We like to assign one verse to each person and go from person to person.)

*We enjoy memorizing all the verses from a certain Christmas song each year. In years past, we have memorized “Away in a Manger,” “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and “We Three Kings.” We can still sing most of the verses today!

*Drive by Christmas lights on your evening travels.

*Go through a drive-through or walk-through nativity while driving by one.

*Deliver goodies to those in route.

*Play “20 Questions Christmas-Style” or “Name That Christmas Tune.”

*New game: A person picks three things about the Christmas story that are really true or just thought to be true (or embellished, such as the little drummer boy playing for Jesus), and the others try to guess which two things are really in the Bible and which one is not. This is eye-opening.

*Sing whatever Christmas song you are reminded of by the decorations you see—stars, snowmen, angels, etc.

*Make up your own humorous twelve days of Christmas song, with each person getting to add their own items to the list as you sing around the van.

*Play the ABC Christmas game—“What I love about Christmas is A for angel, B for baby, C for candy, etc.” Go around and each person starts with A and tries to remember what was previously said. (This is a spin-off of the “I went to Grandma’s and I took A for applesauce, B for blankets, etc.)

*My personal favorite: Have someone write your holiday cooking and shopping list and holiday menus down for you while you drive and dictate to them. (Be forewarned: No comments about the spelling or penmanship are allowed when the child is done writing for you!)

Free Online Advent Calendar

Sheri Graham, of Graham Family Ministries, knows where all the goodies are! She just sent through another great link—this time a free online advent calendar. With the internet and all of the *freebies* available therein, we have no excuse for not doing great things with our kids all year round!

Click on the link below to get your free online advent calendar!

http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/ideas/advent

Nativity Sets Galore!

“And the Grinch stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” ~Dr Seuss

When our kids were very little, I always had one nativity set that was for them to play with. This one was set up on a low table and was the kids’ to interact with. We have done other nativity pieces—clay, paint your own, Fisher Price, felt, punch outs, and more. A simple search of nativities online yielded so many cute ideas—if you are crafty, they are even better! Here are some I found that you might enjoy sharing with your children.

LEGO nativity: http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?_adv_prop=image&fr=yfp-t-701&va=lego+nativity

EDIBLE nativity: http://www.mustardseedclub.org/arc0021.htm

PIPE CLEANER nativity: http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/away-in-a-manger-homemade-creche-668113/

PLUSH nativity: http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view?back=http%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%2Fimages%3F_adv_prop%3Dimage%26va%3Dplush%2Bnativity%2Bset%26fr%3Dyfp-t-701&w=400&h=400&imgurl=www.stjudeshop.com%2Fresources%2FStJudeShop%2Fimages%2Fproducts%2Fprocessed%2F14313.zoom.a.jpg&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stjudeshop.com%2Fproduct%2Fchildrens-bagged-nativity%2F&size=23KB&name=…+Plush+Nativi…&p=plush+nativity+set&oid=19a615
3cd589ff7a996ddcb9e62e6f49&fr2=&no=5&tt=2750&sigr=11s5vbt1s&sigi=12i2cbdf1&sigb=12vi3n8l6&.crumb=MbLOpBXyoMe

PAINT YOUR OWN nativity: http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view?back=http%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%2Fimages%3F_adv_prop%3Dimage%26va%3Dplush%2Bnativity%2Bset%26fr%3Dyfp-t-701&w=730&h=557&imgurl=www.catholicsupply.com%2FCHRISTMAS%2F27405.jpg&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.catholicsupply.com%2Fchristmas%2Fcmastoy.html&size=253KB&name=…+Paint+Your+O…&p=plush+nativity+set&oid=6a6c7fecf0eba37de269ac6b77318a7a&fr2=&no=7&tt=2750&sigr=11kefpv89&sigi=11atpjlf6&sigb=12vi3n8l6&.crumb=MbLOpBXyoMe

FISHER PRICE nativity: http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=900000&e=storeproduct&pid=46068

PLAYMOBILE nativity: http://store.playmobilusa.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-US-Site/en_US/Product-Detail?pid=5719&cgid=

ADVENT NATIVITY CALENDAR with CHOCOLATE!: http://www.catholicsupply.com/christmas/advcal2.html

WOODEN ADVENT CALENDAR: http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?_adv_prop=image&fr=yfp-t-701&va=wooden+advent+nativity+calendar

CLAY nativity: http://www.ehow.com/how_6578433_make-clay-nativity.html

CARDBOARD BOX nativity: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1212882/easy_cardboard_box_nativity_scene.html

PUNCH OUT nativity: http://paperdollreview.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=516

SALT DOUGH nativity: http://www.squidoo.com/salt-dough-nativity-scene

Homeschool Tip IX: Teach Like Jesus

 Twelve Tips for Homeschoolers: Learn to Teach Like Jesus


Many years ago we were introduced to the concept of teaching like Jesus taught. We have since delved into that further, realizing that Jesus was not only a model of how to teach concepts to our children, but he was also the epitome of relationship building with people. This has helped us in our parenting and discipling of our children in general (not just in “teaching” or homeschooling).

One of the things that has stuck with us the most is the concept of time in Jesus’ teaching. Jesus taught all the time! He taught Nicodemus late at night; he taught during meals via the last supper and other “potluck” style opportunities. This reinforced the concept in Deuteronomy 6:7 of teaching our children all the time—as we do everything—as we live. Along the lines of different time frames, we also noted that Jesus taught varying lengths of time. Sometimes he taught short and straight to the point (the woman at the well). Other times he had lengthy teaching sessions, such as the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes he taught so long he went right on through meal times! We, too, need to be aware of our audience—and their time limitations, our scheduling needs, etc.

Jesus also used various types of teaching. This showed us that some kids need a certain type of instruction while others need something else. In Matthew 18:12, Jesus asked the question, “What do you think?” This has become a common mantra for our parenting/teaching. We have wanted to allow the kids to tell us what they already know or what they think—and then we could build on that. Asking open ended questions is a super method for academic training—and for heart training.

Of course, Jesus also taught one-on-one (again, Nicodemus and the woman at the well); small group (twelve disciples); and large group (five thousand). There have been many things in our homeschool that were perfectly suited to one-on-one instruction. Other things were great for small group—and we used unit studies and other “small group” instruction situations with our kids together. Some things were truly best suited to a larger group, such as speech and debate, drama, and choir.

Jesus used storytelling extensively. He used God’s word to tell stories. And he used nature to tell stories—pearls, fish, trees, water were all object lessons. We have taken his concept of using nature to heart. We have used animals via Answers in Genesis materials, zoo trips, etc. We have used Character Sketches books for twenty-nine years to teach character and Bible—half of the book is using nature to teach character! Sometimes we just look at the snow, clouds, stars, ocean—and an instant lesson in spiritual truth presents itself!

Jesus taught in unusual places—which we have found extremely effective and fun—for the kids and parents! Jesus taught in a boat, by a well, on a hillside, in a garden, on the water, under the stars. Kids love surprises and unusual things. And we have enjoyed providing surprises and unusual places to learn—zoos, parks, sleeping at the top of the jungle gym at Science Central, camping out on the “bunks” at the fort, and more have provided us with unusual and enjoyable learning opportunities.

Lastly, Jesus had characteristics of a superior teacher—that we homeschoolers should model after. He knew his audience—and he taught accordingly. He was teachable, even as a teacher: “I only do what I see my Father do.” He had his priorities in order: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).  And he didn’t “just teach”—he discipled: “Come ye after me” (Mark 1:17). Wow, “to be like Jesus”—to teach like Jesus! Now that would make me a successful homeschooler!

Tip VII: Pray! (Back to School Prayer)

 Twelve Back to School Tips for Those Attending School!

                              Tip VII: Pray! (Back to School Prayer)

We should always pray for our kids—for our family. However, when we are going to be apart from each other, we should pray even more.

I love this “back to school prayer” at the link below!