Christ-Centered School Subjects

Last week, someone asked me what I liked the most about homeschooling. It took a little bit of thought on my part, but I would have to say that I like being able to prioritize whatever I want. I also enjoy being able to teach the different subjects around a particular theme. Some folks call them unit studies, but I have never tried those in the traditional sense. Nope. What I am talking about is taking a Christ-centered approach to homeschooling. I have gotten a lot more serious about this over the summer, since Ian revealed to me his desire to be a missionary. All of a sudden, I’m in panic mode. I only have seven years left to train him!! I feel like I’m very far behind.

In an effort to help him learn as much about the Bible as he can, without sacrificing his other studies, we have been trying to come up with some creative ways to incorporate the skills he will need as a missionary into his daily homework. Here’s what Ian and I have come up with so far:

For writing and spelling practice, I use a dictation method. If you’re interested, you can read about it here. However, this year, instead of reading to him from literature books, he has asked me to read from the Bible. He can practice his handwriting and his spelling this way. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so I agreed.

In an effort to get him to write even more, I have begun to show him what sermon notes would look like. I wrote down a few notes from the Bible chapter we had read together earlier that day, and I let him practice giving the tiny sermon (more like a Sunday School lesson at this point) to me and Jesse. I’m going to get him to the point where he can write his own outline as he reads through a chapter, and then expand it to draw from other passages to support his main idea. He’ll be using cross references (thanks for the idea, Pastor Mike!) and a topical index (I still have to purchase one though), and he’ll also be learning how to deliver a speech.

Science always makes us think about God, no matter what we’re studying. I’ve always told Ian that science is the study of the way God thinks. I read a great quote in a chemistry book a couple of years ago. It said: “Human beings, especially scientists, but also philosophers and theologians, are always suspicious. They have a deep down feeling that things are not just put together randomly, a strange intuition that, underneath it all, there is a conspiracy going on, a great conspiracy of order. That is why chemists started to wonder, and wonder (as Aristotle said long ago) is the beginning of all science.”

For Bible right now, we are reading Begin, a book for new believers that has key passages from Genesis, Exodus, John, Romans, and Revelation. We read a chapter each day and discuss. We are also reading a biography written by a man who (along with his family) was a missionary to the Philippines. This man also happens to be our pastor! (Thanks for the great stories, Pastor Doug!)

So those are the Christ-centered ideas that I have so far.

Here are a couple of extra things I am thinking about to prepare him for his future: Eventually, when I can afford a Rosetta Stone program, he wants to learn Urdu. It’s nice being homeschoolers because his options are so much better. I don’t think Spanish or French or German would serve him well in the mission field he has chosen.

The last idea I have had is to get him tabla lessons. Indian raga have always been fascinating to me, so I was thrilled when I discovered that Pakistan uses the same ones as Northern India.

Do you all have any more ideas? Either for creating Christ-centered studies or for preparing for missions?

Bible Study vs. Bible Reading

The other evening at church, we were talking about whether it’s more important to read through the Bible over and over, or more important to slow down and study passages from it.

Personally, I like the idea of reading through it every year because I think you are more likely to open your Bible every single day if all you have to do is pick it up. If you have to think of a topic, drag out your Strong’s concordance, Vine’s topical, and Matthew Henry’s commentary, I think you are a lot less likely to be in the mood to spend time with God.

I also like the idea of having read the Bible 5 or 10 or 20 times, depending how long you’ve been at it. After a while, it becomes like that favorite movie you can practically quote. No, but really – spending time with God every single day, and working your way through every aspect in which He has revealed Himself, has some pretty amazing benefits.

First of all, you get to know God pretty well – how He thinks, how He loves, how He has planned and labored for our redemption since the beginning of time. For instance, there are certain things I know about my mom or my dad. Certain things about their personalities that go without saying. They would no longer have to tell me that they love me, or that they have my best interest in mind, etc. I just know these things because I understand them. When you read the entire Bible, especially multiple times, you are building an all-around perspective of what God is like.

Secondly, if you can get in the habit of reading for a few minutes every single day, instead of waiting for a chunk of time in which you can sit down and really dive in, you are giving God the opportunity to grab your attention daily. Sure, there will be some mornings or evenings that you are tired and have to prop your eyelids open. There will be some days where you find yourself not really paying attention and needing to reread what you just spent the last five minutes staring at. However, eventually, it’s all going to sink in. Finding a time of day in which you are awake and mentally engaged is challenging, but it can be done.

Thirdly, when people make outrageous claims about the Bible saying this or that, you will know whether they are true. If you are truly paying attention while you read, you will know if you come across anything that just doesn’t seem to jive. Here it will definitely be your responsibility to pray and research and find out what is meant by such a passage, and then you will be able to answer if someone questions your faith in a book that they claim contradicts itself.

Lastly, I think it’s ludicrous for Christians to claim they believe something they have never even read all the way through. Baby Christians, new converts, okay. I get it – you haven’t had time yet. And I know that the Word of God speaks for itself, and when you identify with certain parts, you believe by faith that the rest of it is true. But come on. Seriously, you need to at least be moving toward that goal of having completely read it, and then keep right on going, moving toward the goal of having read it so many times you can practically quote it. I looked at my Kindle reading app, and the average time for reading through the Bible that I have downloaded is 44 hours and 9 minutes. Folks, that’s less than 8 minutes a day. We honestly have no excuse.

All that being said, I am not trying to deter anyone from actually taking a half-hour to an hour a day and studying the word of God. Or maybe you can carve out a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon – whatever works. Just try to form a habit you can stick with. I do believe that there are many insights to be gained by studying the meanings of words in their original languages. I also believe we should study the Bible in light of other Scriptures, and there is something to be said about reading supporting verses in one sitting, rather than as you come to them on your journey through the Bible.

Personally, I study the things that catch me off-guard, or things that are on my heart, or things I think I need a better understanding of. In this way, I use the Bible as a tool, a reference book, a how-to guide for life. I openly admit to not studying in-depth on a daily basis, but when I do, I usually feel compelled to study until I get to the bottom of an issue. This can take hours a day for several days sometimes. It still doesn’t happen often enough for me (in my opinion), so I intend to make some additions to my reading plan in order to study with intentionality (is that a word?).

I spoke with Ian on the way home about how he thinks we should approach Bible study. I said, some folks who study the Bible but don’t intentionally read it through never even get to all of it. How do we fix that problem? Ian said, “Study it in order.” Well, I should have known that was the obvious answer, but didn’t think of it on my own for some reason. So, I think I will start at the very beginning, and study as much as I like after I have read my passage for the day. The studying portion will, of course, move at a much slower pace, but perhaps it will benefit me more. Perhaps studying everything once will have the same affect on my understanding and retention as reading it ten times through.

Do you have any ideas on reading or studying the Word of God? What method do you use? What changes would you like to make?

Train Up a Child: Prayer

Ever since Ian told me that God has called him as a missionary, I’ve been taking his training a lot more seriously. I know that I should have been diligent to train him all along – it’s not like he will always be surrounded by like-minded folks, or that he will never fall into temptation – but suddenly, his Christian development has taken precedence over everything else. For instance, we’ve been praying out loud together every day. The first day, I prayed out loud; the second day, he did, etc. By doing this, I hope to accomplish a few things:

1. Give him an idea about the variety of things we can talk to God about (aka, everything).

2. Teach him to be thankful and worshipful above all things – that these are the most important aspects of his communion with God.

3. Train him to only ask for personal things occasionally. This is not the sole purpose of prayer. I have said before – God is not a vending machine. However, we pray for salvation of the lost pretty frequently.

4. Show him that prayer is not meant to be mindlessly repetitious or ritualistic. Every approach to the throne of God should be fresh and unique to that moment, and our hearts and minds should be focused on Him.

5. Get him in the habit of taking the time to pray. Every. Single. Day. It should be non-negotiable, just like brushing his teeth.

6. Increase his comfort level in praying out loud. As a man, he will be called on to pray in church with some regularity, and as a missionary, he will have to take the initiative and teach others how to pray.

7. It just occurred to me – I should also teach him to be silent for a few moments as well – to give God our undivided attention, and allow Him the opportunity to answer back.

8. We haven’t done this yet, but I also need to emphasize the importance of searching our hearts, admitting to sin, and earnestly repenting.

52 Godly Men, by Craig Thompson

52 Godly Men: The Gift of a Lifetime

By Craig Thompson

The energy in the crowd of 10,000 people was tangible as Zig Ziglar stepped up to the microphone: “Good morning, Nashville!” he shouted in his Southern drawl. His opening statement caught most of us by surprise as he asked, “How many people here today believe that you can do something in the next twenty-four hours which will absolutely, one hundred percent make your life worse?” The question elicited laughter from the crowd. After the collective pause, Ziglar then followed up by stating, “If you believe that you can do something to make your life worse, then you must also accept the truth that there is some action you can take, some decision you can make in the next twenty-four hours which will make your life better!”

A few years back, I made a parenting decision that would change the life of my son, David, dramatically for the better. I wanted to make his thirteenth birthday more of a rite of passage into manhood than just another birthday with bigger toys. Through what I believe was a divine inspiration, I came up with the concept that I labeled “52 Godly Men.”

On David’s birthday, I told him that for the next year, he would meet with a different Godly man every week. My job would be to pick the men, schedule the appointments, make arrangements to get him there, and generally oversee the process. His job would be to meet with the men, listen to their wisdom, and then write a blog article about each meeting.

Proverbs Pic

freeimages.com/BillyAlexander

So began a year of wisdom, insight, camaraderie, mentoring, and good old-fashioned fun. With Godly men at his side, David hiked, fished, and jumped into a river. He counted pills at a pharmacy, toured an airport under construction, and learned what goes into engineering a product. He helped build a barn, planted a garden, and helped work on an MG. He shot an AK-47 for the first time, helped review copy for a metro newspaper, and killed his first two deer. His Godly men helped him open his first savings account, gave him full-day access to see what goes into setting up a Christian concert, and taught him about frugality and the importance of standing up for a cause.

Every week, David wrote an article summarizing key life lessons. Every week, he learned a little bit more about what it means to be a man who wants to please God in a different profession. Every week, he knew that Dad was going to ask him, “What was the single most important lesson you learned from this man today?”

As time passed, my son changed in ways that I had not really imagined. I could envision that meeting many different men would force him to be more open to meeting new people. What I witnessed was far beyond that. His confidence level increased. His overall maturity that he displayed at home and at church shot up. He also began to be more comfortable in a leadership role—which is what he will need to assume as the head of a household.

The benefits extended far beyond my plans. David learned firsthand about quite a few jobs that he now knows he does not want to pursue. That saved him from wasting years of higher education like some people who pursue their dream career only to find out that they never looked closely enough at it to realize that they just would not like the day-to-day grind of their chosen profession. He learned some of the headaches of owning one’s own business firsthand. He heard some great advice about picking a spouse and raising a family.

None of this would have happened if I had not taken the step of asking others to help mentor my son. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the road to growth

is paved with intentionality. As the old adage goes, “The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” Because I planned, acted, and followed through, my son benefited in a way that has helped to shape his present and his future.

We see intentionality commanded in the great passage of Deuteronomy 6. There, we who are the adults in the community of faith are commanded to teach God’s commands diligently to our children. Most people won’t teach a child something they are not passionate about. And what are people passionate about if not the deep life lessons that they have learned as they have traveled the path of life? These were the truths that I sought to have other men share with David.

How about your own child? Have you taken any intentional steps to promote his development through the mentoring gifts of others in the Body of Christ? Realistically, very few of us will have the blessing of someone coming to us out of the blue and offering to pour wisdom into our children’s lives. Yet, all around us are powerful seeds that can be planted into the heart of our children if we are only willing to ask for them.

In my local church, one of my wife’s friends was impacted by what she saw happening with my son. She decided that she wanted to give this same type of gift to her daughter when she turned 13. The response from the women she knew was overwhelming. She had more women wanting to be part of mentoring her daughter than she had time for. Now, her second daughter has turned 13 and is about to begin her own year of mentoring. You can do it too.

“That sounds like an awful lot of work!” may be the thought on your mind. Sure it is. And it’s quite time-consuming. But I’d much rather be spending my time planning positive experiences for my son than spending that time hanging out at juvenile detention, drug rehab, or any number of other places where I could be trying to win him back or help him recover from wrong decisions.

You don’t have to get hung up on the number 52 as some magic number. If you plan one appointment per month, your son or daughter will be richer for it after one or two years than if you had not taken the time to do it at all. Having done 52 straight weeks, I can testify that it’s possible, but I wouldn’t feel like a failure if we hadn’t made it.

From the beginning of this project, I felt a nudge from God that this idea was given from Him in order to bless more than just my own children. As God has opened the door, I’ve shared what we’ve done in numerous venues. I see so many positive benefits to my son’s life. Now, I encourage you—in the next twenty-four hours—to make a decision that will absolutely, positively make your child’s life better. Start making a list today.

PS: I also invite you to visit David’s website at http://www.52godlymen.com and read about his adventures, and when you do, please leave a comment for him. He will enjoy hearing from you.

Craig Thompson is the founder of Caldwell Global Communications, a company providing Internet-based services to companies and nonprofits around the globe. He is a speaker, author, teacher, and preacher who authors a free daily devotional at WalkwithGod.com (subscribe-meditations@hub.xc.org ). Craig and his family are available for seminars or interviews regarding 52 Godly Men, parenting, raising goats, or healthy cooking.

Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Annual Print 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at http://www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at http://www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Bible Memory Book

It was my turn to teach Children’s Church this week, which I’ve only done once before. While looking for an object lesson, I remembered a method that a former Children’s Church teacher of mine had used to help the class memorize a Bible verse. So I decided to try it with our class. Here’s what you do:

Write the memory verse out on a dry erase board. Have the class read it several times. It helps if you use a sing-song voice because they get the rhythms in their heads. Then, once they know a few key words (like nouns or verbs), erase them two or three at a time. Keep going until you have erased the whole board. The kids really like this activity because it challenges them! I only had three boys in my class at the time, and they were competing with each other to say the words first.

Bible Memory BookIt went over so well, that I thought I would use the same technique at home to help Ian begin to memorize verses on his own. At first, I contemplated purchasing a white board, but I really couldn’t justify the five dollars. So I took a notebook that I already had laying around and taped an envelope into the front cover. I wrote out this week’s memory verse, only three words per line, spacing them out so they were on the left hand, in the middle, and on the right hand of the page. I also skipped every other line. After that, I cut out a bunch of pieces from cardstock that would be large enough to cover any word that could be written in a space but not large enough to overlap the other words.

Now, he has the ability to recreate Sunday’s activity with any verse he wants! I am going to dedicate the entire notebook to memory verses, and have him review them occasionally. What do you think?

Easiest Lasagna Ever

Lazy Lasagna IngredientsAnd quickest, and cheapest…it’s the best of every world! Ian had a friend over from church Sunday. At first his friend didn’t really want to come because he was looking forward to a lasagna dinner that afternoon. However, he did want to hang out with my son, so I just decided to make lasagna too!

While at ALDI, I was picking up my usual 4 ingredients: lasagna noodles, marinara, Velveeta (or something similar), and ground beef. However, they didn’t have any lasagna noodles for some reason, so I picked up a box of farfalle instead.

At home, I cooked up the noodles, and dumped them in a Pyrex baking dish, along with about 6 half-inch slices of Velveeta (that’s only half as much as I generally use), most of a jar of marinara, and about 3/4 lb. cooked ground beef. Then I baked it at 350 for 15 minutes, and it was probably the tastiest lasagna I have ever made!

I was super easy because I didn’t have to mess with layering the lasagna noodles. (And I didn’t get burned like I usually do!)

Ok, so here’s the recipe, if you want to call it that:

1 box farfalle

a 3-inch block of Velveeta, sliced into 6 pieces

1 jar of marinara

1 pound of ground beef, or thereabouts

Boil the noodles to al dente and brown the beef. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. When the noodles and beef are done, mix everything in an oven-safe dish and cook for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Joe’s Goals

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. The year that I went on a diet (in an effort to cure breast cancer naturally), I didn’t eat any sugar, meat, dairy, or artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors for fifteen or sixteen months. Then, after surgeries, chemo, and radiation obliterated my cancer, I went back to eating whatever. I keep telling myself that I’m going to eat better. And I’m doing better than I was at first. I stay away from candy and soda for the most part, but I can do better still. It’s not like I don’t know what I should be eating, so I really have no excuses. My problem is, I think, “I’ll just have a little bit today” – every day. I don’t know how to do anything in moderation.

The other day, I Googled “goal website” or something like that, and I stumbled on something I’ve been using since then. The name of the site is Joe’s Goalsbadgeexample, and there’s a little goal schedule embedded into the page to help you keep track of your goal every day. Initially, you set up each goal and assign it a positive or negative point value. Then, you just keep track of each thing you accomplish or slip up on. It couldn’t be simpler! And since it tallies your points at the end of every day, I am not falling into the pitfall of “well, I missed a day exercising, so I guess I won’t exercise for another month.” Or “I ate sugar today, so I guess I’ll keep eating it until I can’t stand myself.” I literally get a few points every single day, and I’m just aiming for higher and higher scores, or longer streaks.