As parents around Australia consider the practicalities of what it could mean for schools to close and their children’s education to continue under their own roofs, AMY BUTLER paused to reflect on the thing she treasures most about having her kids around 24/7.
My kids range from ages 15 to 6. My husband and I decided to educate them at home the week before my eldest enrolled to start school. Initially it was only to be a temporary choice, but here we are, over 10 years later and they’re still at home. I cannot pretend that it is anything other than challenging and demanding. But the paradox of course is that it’s often the things that are hard, which bring the most blessing. What I value and treasure about living life with my kids is precisely that I have QUANTITY time with them, which in turn provides multiple opportunities every day to teach them about God. Here are seven things I have learned.
- Our kids belong to God: Charlotte Mason was an English educator at the turn of the 20th Century. Her philosophy underpins the teaching of many Christian home-educators in Australia. One of her underlying principles was that ‘children are born persons’. In other words, a child is no more or less the person God created them to be irrespective of their age and stage of development. Our role as parents is to allow them to flourish and not to hinder them. This takes a lot of pressure off because just as we say that their ultimate destination for eternity comes under the providence of God, so too their learning and growth. My whole approach to how and why I parent changes when I see my kids as not my own but belonging to God.
- Kids can handle the Bible: We don’t need to dress the Bible up or make it “more engaging”. It’s really just as simple as picking it up, reading and discussing it together. Resources like the Big Picture story Bible are still great to read. This is especially for younger children because it lays the foundation for good Biblical theology so that kids build an understanding of the context of the Bible as a whole. I think we get worried that kids won’t understand things because we lack the confidence or have over-complicated it. But kids have amazing powers of comprehension! It has been a delight to see afresh the power of God’s word to turn the lights on. God has used my kids to remind me of just how amazing he is.
- My kids see EVERYTHING about my life! And I really do mean everything – the good, the bad and the ugly. How I cope with the anxiety caused by COVID-19. How I express my trust in Jesus. How I model serving. When kids are around you 24/7, there is no ‘keeping up appearances’. I have to be authentic. They push my buttons; they have their own agenda for the day and find it hard to co-operate. Sometimes I lose the plot. I am tempted in these moments to feel like I’m a failure and to despair. But instead, I have learned that I am frail, just like them, and it is an opportunity to model my own need for God’s grace.
- I need to keep working out my own salvation with fear and trembling: If I’m going to be authentic about my relationship with Jesus and if I’m going to talk about him and his word every day, I have to be actively engaged in working at my relationship with him and growing in my knowledge and dependence on him. Before I can be a good parent or home-educator, I have to get my mind set on Jesus.
- Family devotions: If you’ve never done them, or they’ve been haphazard, now is a good time to start. Keep it short. Make it fun (eg over dessert). Sometimes it’s hit and miss, but that’s ok. Keep going. They will remember the practice even if they don’t remember the details of every devotion. There is comfort in consistency but try not to be legalistic about it. Use your discretion. Sometimes kids are too tired. Instead just do a short prayer at bedtime etc.
- Enjoy great stories together that inspire the moral imagination: Jesus told stories! We all get to be heroes in our own story, so great books provide role models and create shared experiences between parents and children and among siblings. Great stories help us internalise truth, beauty and goodness. For more on this and book suggestions, check out storywarren
- Finally, Love Jesus, love yourself, work on your marriage, love your kids: I struggle to keep it in this order. It seems counter intuitive to put myself so high on the list. But if I’m not going well, I’m not going to do any of my other jobs properly. Read your Bible, try to get enough sleep, eat well and exercise (Pilates on YouTube anyone?). Try and enjoy these special people God has placed in your life. For all we know, they may be the closest company we keep over the coming months.