Thursday, September 20, 2012

The beauty of technology!

Let me preface this post with this: I am not advocating an abdication of time spent teaching your children in a "hands-on" fashion. I am not saying that you should use technology as a "babysitter" either.  That being said, technology can be a wonderful tool or servant in our schooling/parenting routine!

I am sure that many of you probably have figured out this cool little tool. But I have just discovered it, and in case I am not the only one who has been in the dark.... I want to pass on this invaluable information!

I was chatting with a fellow homeschooling mom at church last Sunday, sharing with her my current woes of being behind on a read-a-long book we're doing for school. I have been reading "Augustus Ceasar's World" as part of our history. This book takes quite a chunk of time each day. I did not realize that our curriculum (that we sort of follow in spite of adding many of our own things) recommended reading aloud "The Bronze Bow" too. By the time I realized this, we were like 100 pages behind the schedule. Each day's reading in this book was also taking up a huge chunk of time... especially when you are in "catch-up" mode.  As I was sharing this with my friend, I mentioned that it would be great to have as an audio book, but I didn't want to buy one. She (in her great wisdom) told me that there are virtual libraries where you could "check out" the audio books and play them on a smart phone (or computer, or mp3 player, or kindle)!

What a concept! Think of the possibilities! For free! So today, I went to our local city's virtual library website (where I already had a library card #) and signed up for a virtual account. I downloaded the app for my iphone (also available for android platforms, PC's, laptops, and Mac), I then browsed the titles in search of my book, and I downloaded the book.  I have 21 days to use it, at which time I can recheck it out, or just return it... (I'm assuming that it "returns itself" but since I'm a newbie at this, I don't know for sure... I can let you know in 21 days!)

Think about the possibilities of this handy little tool! Again, I do not plan on using this method to become my only source of reading aloud to my children. But in my current situation, I was able to play 2 chapters over lunch today while I got caught up on making butter and mozzarella cheese.  As I was talking to another homeschooling friend about this today, we thought about the opportunity to "read" during time in the car. Our family tends to be on the road a lot. I have tried using that time to read to the kids while Byron is driving, but it is quite laborious reading loud enough for everyone in the 3rd row to hear... especially over the diesel engine in our excursion or in our 4.5 door truck....

This truck has been great in transporting around our ever-increasing family! Check out

So having the option of using my iphone to play the read aloud and utilize the driving time as school time sounds like a great idea to me!  (In case you have a cassette player in your vehicle, you can get the cassette adapters for less than $5 at walmart. You connect one end to the headphone jack in your phone/kindle/ipad and the cassette end inserts into the cassette player. Then the audio is played through your car speakers.  Alternately, you can get an FM transmitter that will transmit via your FM radio to your car speakers.)

If you haven't figured it out, I'm quite excited about this! But on a similar note I'll just share another tidbit of info.... I have an app for my iphone called Bible.Is.  You can read the Bible on it in many versions, but what I love it for is the audio Bible.  When I have a Wifi or 3G connection I have access to a DRAMATIZED audio bible.... yes... you actually get to listen to the Egyptian plagues with locusts and frogs croaking in the background! The kids love it. Occasionally we take a break from our "normal" Bible reading and listen to the dramatized ESV Bible instead.  I'm sure there are more apps out there that do the same thing, but this is the one we are familiar with.  I am also able to use this app in the truck.

What are your favorite techno helps???? Please post and share!!!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Train up a child....

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and talk about 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. Deuteronomy 4:6-9

These are only a few of the many scriptures that apply to parenting. Truth be told, the Lord has much to say to us as parents; He does not send us out "blindly" as we strive to raise our children.  I have heard many people say that "Kids do not come with an instruction manual." I would beg to differ. We have God's Word which is readily accessible in our country. We have a whole 66 books in which the Lord has spoken to us.  The question is, do you use your manual? Most people do not. Most people would rather turn to the newest "self-help" book, talk show host, or whatever friend who will listen to get advice in raising their children.

I'm not going to take the time to go into an indepth word study here, but look at the language used in the above scriptures: "Train up", "Bring them up", "Discipline", "Instruction", "Teach them DILIGINTLY"... The terminology here does not indicate a passive role for us parents in raising godly offspring. It is quite the opposite. We are to have an intentional, active, planned, and systematic approach in teaching our children the scriptures. In addition to that, the scriptures should be such a part of our own lives that we should recognize the Lord in our daily activities and use those moments to teach our children even more about Him.

If my plan was to run a marathon, I would have to "train".... "diligently".  I would not be able to complete the race if I only ran on Sunday mornings and the occasional Wednesday evening.  Even if I ran twice on Sunday and every Wednesday it would not be enough to prepare me for the race. The same applies to teaching our children the scriptures and correct Biblical doctrine. A couple of times a week for an hour here and there will not cut it. Furthermore, it is not the church's job to teach your children about God. It is your job. So, where do you start?

Most people probably did not grow up with parents who modeled what the previous verses instruct. If you grew up with that model, give thanks and praise to God, then tell your parents what a gift that they gave to you! But even if you did not have that model, ignorance is no excuse and it is not "bliss". ...because you have ignored my counsel and would have none of my reproof... Prov. 1:25; As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passion of your former ignorance... 1 Peter 1:14; The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent... Acts 17:30 Your first step is to acknowledge that you have fallen short in obeying His commands and repent. (The Lord gives grace to the humble). We must humbly admit that we were wrong and need His help in bringing up our children. We need to ask for His guidance and wisdom in understanding the scriptures for ourselves, as well as wisdom in teaching them to our children.  Then, it is time to get busy in studying the Word.

Thankfully, we have the Spirit to help us in our understanding of the Word. God has also provided us with mentors, pastors, and other Godly people to help guide us. Pray that He would bring a mentor into your life. These "mentors" can also come in the form of books (just make sure that you are careful in selecting your sources and that you are a "Berean" (Acts 17:11). There is a lot of false theology available... even and especially in the "Christian" category). 

I recommend that you read through the Bible systematically. There are many reading plans available for free online. (I prefer the chronological plan.) In January, all of my independent readers (9, 6, & 5) began reading through their "Bible in a Year" plan. This is something we will always be doing in our home. Each time you read through your Bible, you learn more and are even more familiar with the Word. I have read through the Bible many times and each time, something "new" speaks to me. God's Word is living and active and I love that! I also recommend that you start memorizing scripture.... a lot of it! Memorize verses that will help you in areas that you are prone to temptation in. (Psalm 119:11). Memorize with your children! I could spend a lot of time on this subject too.... but......

.....What I really wanted to talk about on this post is catechism (note... this is not the same thing as catholic sunday school which is what most readily comes to mind when "catechism" is mentioned).. So what is "catechism"? It is a guide in Q & A format designed to teach fundamental principles of religion. When we "catechize" our children, we are teaching them to memorize the answers. When they have learned it well, they will have a good, thorough, understanding of the Christian doctrine.  Richard Baxter (a puritan preacher) visited each of the families in his congregation annually and examined them by evaluating how well children and parents knew the catechism. According to "A Quest for Godliness; The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life", Baxter claimed to have more outward signs of success in demolishing the kingdom of darkness among his church members through this practice than through all his public preaching to them. In other words, teaching our children a catechism is a good tool to use in passing on the Christian truths. 

How does this work? As we ask our kids the questions and teach them the answers, we also talk about those answers and use scripture to support them. My favorite catechism questions have to do with the 10 commandments. Being just a summary of God's law, their requirements are so much DEEPER than "thou shalt not kill...." When we study them more in depth, we learn what the 6th commandment requires, forbids, and allows for. When we study the 7th commandment, we learn that it also forbids all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.... not just "don't have an affair"...  So in going through the questions, we gain (and give our children) a much broader understanding of who God is, what the scriptures teach, and how we are to live.

There are many catechism resources available, but these are some of our favorites:

      Truth and Grace Books (TAG books) - These little books are a great, concise, asset to help your little ones memorize verses, memorize catechism questions, and memorize hymns. Book 1 is for ages 2 through the 4th grade. Book 2 picks up from there (grades 5-8), and subsequently book 3 continues for grades 9-12. The books are set up with goals for each year and spaces to "sign off" on once the requirement is completed.

       Wesminster Shorter Catechism - This book contains all of the Q & A's as well as great commentaries, scripture references, illustrations, and discussion questions.  We use it in combination with Training Hearts Teaching Minds.

        Training Hearts Teaching Minds - This book takes each question and spends a week (6 days) expounding on it in the format of a family devotional.  If you go through the book as written, you will complete it in 2 years.  The devotionals are short, and our family works through it at a bit faster pace than that, but you are free to customize it to your family.

         Westminster Catechism Songs CD's - This is a new, fun item we just added to our library.  The artist has 4 cd's in which she covers all of the questions, setting them all to catchy tunes on her guitar.  My kids have so much fun singing them... I just had to post a video of them being silly to share!

 So I encourage you to start today in studying the scriptures with your kids!!!!  What are your family's favorite scripture helps????