Tag Archives: Children

Home – The Heart of Homeschooling

Home the heart of homeschooling

Our family’s journey in homeschooling this year has been largely focused on establishing a rhythm that will be sustainable long term.

One of the things we’ve been doing is concentrating on our relationships with each other, particularly the children with one another (more on this another time).

The other thing we’ve been focusing on is keeping our home as the centre of our homeschool.

This is what I’m sharing at Lindsey’s website today.  I hope it encourages you.

“We’ve heard it said: ‘Home is where the heart is’. For homeschooling families, home is where our children’s hearts are. It’s the place where we intend to lovingly guide, equip, shepherd, and prepare our children’s hearts for the life set before them.”



PS. A quick note from me – you will find me posting a lot less for this next season of life, possibly just once or twice a month.  If you enjoy what I write, you might like to subscribe to receive posts by e-mail (see sidebar on the right).  Thanks, and have a great weekend!

Best ‘Ancient’ and ‘Middle Ages’ Historical Reads {Elementary Level}

Best Ancient and Middle Ages Reads

History is by far our favourite subject, and I’m always on the look-out for great titles to add to our homeschool library. We are working our way through Ancient History at the moment, and gearing up to study the Middle Ages in a few months time.

This list below has some historical fiction, and I’ve also included titles where the historical setting paints a wonderful picture of what life was like during that time period. I’ve also included some really great biographies.

If you click on the link, you will likely find the approximate age level and also some reviews on the content itself. I haven’t read all of these books myself, but have read reviews online to determine whether they meet the ‘living book’ criteria for our family. I’m fairly confident they are good picks, but make sure you read reviews to determine if they’re the right fit for your family. Many of these will be on the next round of our 4-year history cycle, particularly those that have philosophies and worldviews that are much different from our own.

Ancient (5000BC to 400 AD)



The Middle Ages (400-1600)



I hope you find some great reads here.  If you’re about to take a break from school for the summer, you might just be able to inspire your elementary aged children to keep learning through the break. 😉

If I’ve missed any great titles, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.




Tips, Treats, Topics and Treasures {January 2014}

monthly round up January 2014

Beginning this month, I’m going to do a round up at the end of each month of things that have grabbed my attention over the course of the month – things to make in the kitchen, things I’m reading or watching, something I’ve read or discovered in health and natural living, and perhaps something we’ve been doing in homeschooling that’s been a great experience or fun part of the journey.

I simply want to pass on things that have caught my interest and been of benefit to my journey, in the hope that you might also find something useful or inspiring too.

So here goes…

In the Kitchen

What I’m Reading and Watching

  • Crafted Prayer (e-book) by Graham Cooke
  • Why Stomach Acid is Good for you: Natural Relief from Heartburn Indigestion, Reflux and GERD – by Wright and Lenard
  • I’ve been enjoying Dr Caroline Leaf’s material for the last couple of years on the brain and faith connection, and strongly recommend you listen in.  She has a series online at the moment on TBN.  Here is the first episode.
  • Compelled by Love – the inspiring story of Heidi Baker.
  • Rend Collective: 10,000 reasons – Love this! Intimate, honest, inclusive worship in a community of kindred people.  Love the Irish folksy sound, and love the heart of these people to honour one another and honour their King.
  • I am really looking forward to watching this one coming out this year: ‘Heaven is for Real

New Discoveries

  • iHerb.com – a great place to get over 35,000 supplements, health and beauty products at great prices.  Best of all, they ship to NZ for just $4, and only $8 for 2-day delivery (on average).   I’ve already put through 2 orders – love cheap international postage!
  • See the Light Shine Art DVD series – just got bumped up my homeschool wishlist.  We can’t wait to get started next month!
  • PureSante –spend months or years trying to get to the bottom of your health issues (like I have!), or consult with someone like the amazing Rachael who can help lead you into greater health. For folks in the Bay of Plenty, give this fantastic gal a call – she is amazing!

On the Homeschool Front

Online Treasures (great reads on the web)

  • I participated in a blog hop with my friends at the TOS Review Crew on the ‘Homeschool Essentials’.  Here’s a few I enjoyed:
  1. Wildflower Ramblings Content with my Role as Mother
  2. Delightful LearningMy Children’s Essentials
  3. FinchnWrenLove
  4. Every Bed of Roses Art and Music Appreciation Resources
  5. At Home: Where Life HappensPaperbacks

A Few of my Favourite Things

Quote of the Month

“When the key element of your identity comes from a negative, then your experiences will always be negative. When you see yourself as a sinner, then you will be preoccupied with sin. When you know that you are a saint, then you will be occupied with righteousness because a saint is one of the holy ones. You were a sinner that has been saved by grace to become a saint. You are a child of light beloved of God walking in newness of life. That makes you a completely different person!”

From MIND OF A SAINT – Graham Cooke

Have a great month!


{This post may contain affiliate links}

Embracing the Season {Guest Post at Whole Family Strong}

Embracing-the-Season- WFS

I’ve recently had the opportunity to write for my friend Jacque at ‘Whole Family Strong’.  I instantly connected to Jacque’s worldview when I first started reading her site.  She has a heart for simple and intentional living, and for living out wellness and wholeness faithfully as a family (make sure you check out her paleo recipes).  I love how Jacque wants to see other families living in fullness also – her website displays these words ‘Spiritually Strong, Physically Strong, Family Strong’.


“There is a time for everything, and a season for every
activity under the heavens”. 
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Life is full of seasons and rhythms, and ebbs and flows.  

“There are seasons of waiting, of action, of preparation, of joy, of visible ministry, and of quiet and unnoticed acts of service. And then there is time of the faithful, and (immediately) unrewarded ministry in the home. Every season provides opportunity to grow and mature, and every season has a purpose to walk into a greater understanding and revelation of the character and nature of our Creator.”…


Our WholeHearted Homeschool: LIVING

Our WholeHearted Homeschool Living

“Christian Parenting is a journey.  The destination is clear – raising godly children – but the roads to get there are not always clearly marked.  We have God’s perfect road map, the Bible, but He has not taken a divine highlighter pen and marked the single route that leads to where we want to go.  He expects us to study the course map and chart a wise course to the desired destination” – Clay Clarkson, “Heartfelt Discipline”, WaterBrook Press, 2003 (as quoted in “Educating the WholeHearted Child”, p269)

What better way to end this series than to write a little on how we keep the vision alive in our home according to our uniqueness as parents, and the order we create for our learning environment.

Together my husband and I are committed to homeschool, which is a blessing in itself, and we also have a fantastic support network of like-minded relationships and families who we can share the triumphs and trials with.

Without weighing in on the varying theology of husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers, I’d like to simply offer to you here the strengths that my husband and I both bring to our homeschool, and subsequently to our home.

The Ministry of Fatherhood

Here is a little of the ministry that my husband brings to our family:

  • A heart after God
  • Generous with his time and abilities
  • Leads with his heart
  • Affirming of our children’s uniqueness
  • A gentle and kind heart
  • A humble and faithful servant
  • An adventurous and fun-filled spirit
  • A safe place for me to fall
  • A listening ear and a guiding voice
  • A peacemaker

The Ministry of Motherhood

Here is the ministry that I bring to our family:

  • A heart after God
  • A desire to build a home ‘with heart’
  • A ‘big picture’ perspective
  • A determined purpose
  • Creating a safe, nurturing and loving environment for our family
  • An unbridled ‘fierce’ love for my husband and children
  • A desire to know God’s design for us
  • A passion for the story of God told through the generations
  • A compassion for the lowly of spirit

Keeping It Real

I do clearly want to add, we have our hearts set on the vision the Lord has given us for parenting and for our home.  But don’t let me paint a picture of perfection with these words above!  Every day we make mistakes.  We are in need of God’s grace and mercy, just as our children are.  The important thing is to be real and transparent with our children, ask forgiveness from them and from the Lord, and stay committed to working out our relationships with each other.

Keeping It All together

I have kept order in my home with different degrees of success throughout the time I’ve been a mother.  The times where things have been going well, have been where I have a plan and my children know  the plan and what is expected too.  I’ve tried homeschool structures and approaches with greater freedom, and those at the other end of the scale.  I’ve come to realise that for our family, we need some shape and order, where it doesn’t restrict learning and life, but where the flow of life within our walls is steady and somewhat predictable.

It doesn’t mean that we have to set a rigid timetable, or that we miss learning opportunities because we’re sticking hard and fast to a schedule.  But we’ve more or less found the right balance of flexibility that keeps an atmosphere of peace and we continue to move forward in our learning goals.

wholeheart living

Quick Tips On Keeping Order

Here are my top 5 tips for keeping order in the home, which I’m planning to focus on this year:

  • Plan meals ahead of time, and if you do schoolwork at the meal table, clear everything away for when it’s time to eat.
  • Keep the mornings free of answering the phone, e-mails and texts, and dedicate that time to learning.
  • Write up a timetable with blocks of time, and communicate to your children what is happening each day.
  • Listen to your ‘warning bells’ and that of your children’s, and determine if and when you need to adjust your load to keep peace and stability in your schooling.
  • Cultivate relationships between siblings if you have more than one child, and set time aside each day for different pairs to spend time one-on-one.  Let love be at the foundation of their relationships and not just ‘agreement’.  You will be setting them up for life.

Building Support

There are all manner of reasons why families homeschool, and all manner of different kinds of families.  I enjoy the colourful homeschool community in our city, and learn so much from these ladies.  Having a support network for your family, and also for you as the homeschooling Mum, is so essential to longevity and refuelling our tanks.

Your support network might be made up of homeschooling families, church or other communities of believers, extended family, and like-minded friends that love you and back your decision to homeschool.  Form authentic relationships with others, and sow into one another’s lives.

Finally my friends…

I hope there’s been something in this series that has sparked vision and inspiration in your heart towards your ‘wholehearted’ homeschool this year and beyond.

I encourage you to get “Educating the WholeHearted Child” into your hands, and jump into the river of wisdom and insight from two of the most loved and respected veteran homeschoolers, teachers, and parents you’ll discover anywhere.  I’m truly indebted to this couple and hope one day I will get to meet them.

There is no set prescription for success in homeschooling – there is the truth that the Lord is with you, and will honour your faithfulness to dedicate yourself to raising your children to love and serve.

I pray you will catch a vision for wholehearted learning, and find the path that suits your precious family.

Wholehearted homeschool

NB.  These essentials are not laid out in this manner in Clay and Sally’s most excellent book, ‘Educating the WholeHearted Child’ nor are they a summary of the books content. But rather this is what I’ve understood from reading their approach, and have used their words of wisdom and insight to develop our family’s own ‘wholehearted’ approach to our homeschooling.

You might also be interested in the other posts in this series:

{This post contains affiliate links}

Our WholeHearted Homeschool: METHODS

Our Wholehearted Homeschool Methods

There are five focused study areas in “Educating the WholeHearted Child” that are a basis for building your ‘wholehearted’ homeschool. Section 3 contains suggested methods under each area for implementing the ‘WholeHearted Learning’ model into your homeschool.  This is a comprehensive section of 78 pages.  Obviously not every part of this section will be relevant to every family, but there’s all the guidance you need to build your ‘how-to’ for your homeschool.

In this post, I will simply lay out some of the methods that we are implementing overall (without breaking them down into the focused study areas).  Note, this is not a summary or re-iteration of the book’s content.  But this is where we have applied the principles and ideas in this section into how our homeschool operates.

  • Our Family Discipleship Approach

I’ve covered our family’s discipleship approach recently in this post.  This year marks a much more intentional approach for us, and being consistent with habits that we’ve wavered in at times.  We’re looking forward to it!

  • English (Language Arts), including Narration, Reading and Writing

The way we approach these essentials is largely through the lens of the Classical and Charlotte Mason methods.  We keep it fairly simple, in that we read aloud every day, so our children learn to hear good writing and learn rich language in their speech and in their writing.  For my eldest daughter (8) I do dictation and narration with her of passages from living books.  She also does copywork every day, and is starting to write longer passages of her own. (You might be interested in this post on Why We Read Together).  Our daughter learns the essentials of writing (eg. punctuation and grammar) through undertaking the writing itself with my guided instruction. However, we do use a spelling program to reinforce this area of learning.  The most important thing though, is reading – reading aloud and, when you have a competent reader, reading alone.

  • Maths

The journey of Maths in our home has had its ups and downs.  We seemed to have found a rhythm now, as we’ve incorporated more maths tools and even art into our learning.  For my naturally artsy-leaning student, it was too bland and too methodical just going through a workbook.  Some of the things we use are charts (including a hundred chart), page-a-day calendar, games, art projects for learning sums, flashcards, and manipulative blocks.

  • History

History is our favourite subject.  We love to follow the story of God on earth, and read living books to understand the chronology of history in all its colour, with mini-studies on people and certain aspects of history.  We are big on learning our family history, and our family tree traces one line back through the early Scottish kings to Ireland in the time of St Patrick and Columba, providing plenty of opportunities for learning.  We utilise a timeline book, and have divided it into eras that ‘Story of the World’ follows in its four volumes.  We’ve also done some biblical history, and love ‘What’s in the Bible’ as a supplement to notebooking pages.

  • Geography

Our geography studies largely fall into other areas, such as map work in history studies, marking our large markable map as places come up in our reading, and learning about other cultures and how people live.

  • Logic and Thinking

For this area, it would be easier just to share what we use (and intend to use) with our children: Developing the Early Learner (4 books) are a wonderful set of books to use for various areas of development for preschoolers; Critical Thinking Activities (K-3) are also a great resource for developing thinking skills.  For preschoolers we also love Mighty Minds and we also love puzzles.

  • Fine Arts

We’ve always had beautiful books of art in our home, so our children have always been drawn to creativity and beauty as expressed in art and music.  We have the ‘Come Look with Me’ series by Gladys Blizzard, and A Child’s Book of Art by Lucy Mickelthwait, as a couple of examples, and look at them together while asking the children what they enjoy in the paintings.  It’s really that simple when they’re young.  We also visit the art gallery every term with our homeschool group, and have some poetry books designed for young children (which, we’ve had varying success with but will keep at it!).

  • Creative Arts

We’ve experimented with different things, including ballet, drama, piano, singing, and art, and a few things have stuck more than others.  Art will always be part of our home, and it’s fun to see what each of my children are naturally drawn to: my eldest loves to sketch, my preschooler loves vibrant pastels and bright paper, and my little guy just loves to get his hands messy at the moment.  We have some ‘how-to’ books, plus our local library is well-stocked on various titles, and we also love Artistic Pursuits as a curriculum that fits our family well.

  • Nature Study

I’m freshly inspired by the Clarkson’s book to get the children out with their sketch books and draw what they see, and also create collections of things they find (and display them). I’d also love to set aside space for a nature library in our home, and simply connect with God in His beautiful creation when we’re out.

  • Creation Science

We are using Apologia Young Explorers series (Zoology 1 at present), which superbly takes an immersion approach to science and intelligently engages students in the wonder and awe of God’s creation.  I believe the notebooking and experiments will heighten the enjoyment factor and help your child retain much more than they otherwise would without these.

  • Home Economics

In this area, we are sticking to the basics: financial stewardship and homemaking skills.  My two eldest are taking increasing responsibility for basic care around our home, including setting the table every evening, preparing food, and helping with the laundry, just to name a few.

  • Out and About – time outside the home

We’ve become very selective about the time we spend outside the home now, as it’s precious learning hours that we want to count.  I’ve already over-filled our schedule in the past and felt exhausted by all the activity, so have learned my lesson!  We don’t have to feel like our children are missing out unless we pack their schedules full.  Just keep it simple:  a couple of trips out a week is plenty for a young family, plus those that you might do every 2 or 3 weeks (eg. library, field trips, homeschool co-ops).  Another way is to bring things into your own home, such as special workshops, children’s book club, afternoon tea teaching etiquette, or project presentation day, just to name a few ideas.

friendsSo there’s a glimpse into how we are covering what we consider the important areas of learning.  It’s not an exhaustive list of every learning experience and every part of what we do.  But I hope it will spur your thinking into how you can apply a simple yet intentional and applied approach to how you homeschool.

Write down your learning goals and refer back to them throughout the year, as you evaluate what’s working and what’s not.  Homeschooing is a journey and will change and grow as your children do.  Nothing needs to be etched in stone, when it comes to methods and curriculum.  That’s the beauty of tailoring your own program.

Enjoy the journey!

Wholehearted homeschool

NB.  These essentials are not laid out in this manner in Clay and Sally’s most excellent book, ‘Educating the WholeHearted Child’ nor are they a summary of the books content. But rather this is what I’ve understood from reading their approach, and have used their words of wisdom and insight to develop our family’s own ‘wholehearted’ approach to our homeschooling.

You might also be interested in the other posts in this series:

{This post contains affiliate links}

Our WholeHearted Homeschool: LEARNING

Our wholehearted homeschool learning

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-7

“Educating the WholeHearted Child” puts it so well: “At the very heart of the history of Israel is God’s design that parents must diligently teach their children the things of God, not just on the Sabbath but at all times, in all places and in all ways.  Parents instructing their children within the context of a close family living within the broader context of the whole community of faith was and still is a nonnegotiable”. (p96)

As we’ve contemplated this responsibility in terms of our homeschooling, we’ve come to realise just how much the way we homeschool must include the ‘whole’ person, and not just the all-important ‘3 R’s’ and various academics.

Most of us already know this, right?  But I find for myself that, in actuality, I can drift from the path of ‘wholehearted learning’ unless I make it a purposeful goal to have a home-centred homeschool and not a home version of public school.  Of course we all want to get those academic essentials down pat, plus ensuring there’s enough time for socialising, attending groups and activities outside the home setting, and so forth.  But I don’t want to miss the eternal perspective on raising our children, and in shaping their hearts, with family and home at the centre of all our learning, and truly being intentional on a daily basis with this.

WholeHearted Learning – The Educational Model

“The WholeHearted Learning Model is a discipleship-based, home-centred, whole-book approach to Christian home education that integrates real books, real life, and real relationships in a life-giving expression of God’s biblical design for the family. “ (p115)

The Clarksons have created a superb and detailed description of five focused study areas, which have helped with how we build our plan, and prioritise our learning goals.  It’s very comprehensive and uses the model of a house, breaking down how each part is built.  I’ve read through this section many times as I’ve considered our learning goals, and how best our family can tailor each of our children’s education accordingly.

Our Learning Environment

We aim to create an environment in our home where our children love to learn, with language, living books (not on digital devices), reading aloud, telling stories, enjoying beautiful art and creative expression, and listening to inspiring music (including worship), just to name a few.

If we had a room to set aside for learning then we would.  But we have limited space in our current home so instead have created spaces throughout that promote learning and also communicate visually what we value.  We want our children to know that we value their learning journey.  So at present, we don’t have an immaculate living room, with adult trinkets on clear and polished surfaces (with ‘invisible’ signs saying do not touch!).  We have a large world map on a main wall.  We have globe on the piano.  We have a spelling board out on display.  And let’s not forget those books.  It’s as tidy as I can keep it, but it’s ‘lived-in’ and speaks to our children that this is what is valued in our home.

We have plenty of living books in every room of the house, including a custom-designed bunk bed with shelves full of fantastic books.  We have our children’s artwork displayed on pinboards in the main living area (also our schooling space), in their bedrooms, displayed in the art area, and the best ones eventually archived in folders.

The Clarkson’s have given me some more ideas for this year, which we will set up in due course, including a geography corner, a nature study corner and an audio corner (there are a full page of ‘Discovery Corner’ ideas on p127).


Developing Hearts, Minds and Souls

There are many ways we implement much of the ‘WholeHearted Learning’ model, but here’s just a few.

Building a library of living books is an absolute top priority for us.  We have books to read aloud together, early readers and chapter books, Classics, reference books, bibles and bible storybooks (each of the children have their own), and some books that the children aren’t ready for but starting to collect them has created an appetite and anticipation for when they’ll get to enjoy them.

It’s our belief that if we expose our children to great writers, great thinkers, and great voices, via real and ‘whole’ books, it will enrich their lives.

With our young children, much of the learning they do is about hands-on experience, creative expression, satisfying their curiosity, finding opportunities to explore and discover (both in and out of our home, and using materials in a way that stirs that love of learning. Nature walks are especially fun for us, as we live in such a beautiful area close to the beach and different bush walks.

We love the ‘fine arts’ focus of a Charlotte Mason homeschool, and we have woven this into our learning times from when the children were young.  When they are young, it’s as simple as them telling back to me what they like in a painting, or what they enjoyed about a poem or story.  As they get older, the discussion times grow and provide great opportunities for observation, narration and learning.

One important area we are focusing on this year is to encourage the formation of good habits and cultivate loving relationships with their siblings.  Each of our children will be spending a certain amount of time with another sibling daily with a set activity.  I’m hoping this will go well!

Learning Styles

There is an excellent practical section on personalities and learning styles in Clay and Sally’s book that will assist in determining where your child sits.  I’m so looking forward to using this section with each of my children, so I can best understand them and adapt my teaching methods for their God-given uniqueness.

So that’s a little glimpse into how we are building the essential area of ‘learning’ in our wholehearted homeschool.

I hope you’re enjoying this series so far.  Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts.

Wholehearted homeschool

NB.  These essentials are not laid out in this manner in Clay and Sally’s most excellent book, ‘Educating the WholeHearted Child’ nor are they a summary of the books content. But rather this is what I’ve understood from reading their approach, and have used their words of wisdom and insight to develop our family’s own ‘wholehearted’ approach to our homeschooling.

You might also be interested in the other posts in this series:

{This post contains affiliate links}

Our ‘WholeHearted’ Homeschool: HOME

Our wholehearted homeschool home

I love the opening heading in Chapter 1 of ‘Educating the Wholehearted Child’: “Home is Where Their Hearts Are” (p19).  This, above all, is really what it’s about for us.  In a Christian home, this is the place that will be a source of life and love to our children’s hearts, and a place of safety, growth, nurture and learning.  Above all else, we hope that we can build a home where Christ is at the centre of every part of our lives.

A Christ-Centered Home

A Christ-centered home is one where an environment is created in which your child’s heart can be shaped and discipled towards encountering the living Christ.  This is more than simply filling your home with Christian activities and all that comes with living a Christian lifestyle.  Those things are good, but ultimately we hope they will be the outworking of our relationship with Christ Himself.  What we are truly working towards is to lead and nurture our children’s hearts to know Him, and to fuel in them the desire to know Him for themselves.

Home Education

For us, educating our children from home has always been the logical end result of how we take our responsibility as parents to raise our children.

“Educating the Wholehearted Child” does a superb job in laying out a biblical basis for why you might choose to homeschool.  As to the biblical basis for what primarily motivates us, I couldn’t possibly try and whittle it down to any group of reasons of any certain scriptures, as there are many.

My favourite ‘parenting’ scripture, in relation to our commitment to homeschool, is: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6).  In educating our children from home, we have this incredible gift of time and freedom to help them in discovering what their path in life will be.  We can tailor their education to suit each of our unique children.  It’s such a blessing and a gift to do this.

My husband and I are certain of our decision to homeschool, which makes those tougher days a little easier to navigate through.

A Christ-Centred Home in our Family

Simply put, we want our children to have an irresistible desire to know their God.  We hope we’re creating a grace-filled home, where our children feel secure, encouraged, free, guided and supported, and above all else, loved.  It really is by finding these things within Christ ourselves that we can ‘release’ them into the environment of our home, and into our children’s hearts.

As the children get older, we will add more bible study and discussion into their education.  It’s important for us to have discipleship as a way of life, not just as another school subject.  There are times for intentional bible study with the purpose of learning, but also for devotional times and reading for fun and family time.  We want our children to have good memories of this, and weave the truth into their hearts in an environment of joy and family.

Our current devotional times sometimes look a little messy with our young children.  We can’t always get them to sit still, pay attention, or get involved.  But sometimes we’ve had really special times together, and God has used our children to show us precious things from His heart.  The main thing is that we keep at it, and let our family devotional times grow as our children grow.

You might also find if you give your children freedom to express their child-like faith in their own way during devotional times, you could be amazed at what comes out of their hearts.

father and child

Being Intentional About What Comes In

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things”. – Philippians 4:8

We are faced with parenting choices that those before us did not have to make: social media, TV and movies, certain magazines and books, and an over load of information on the internet.

Can I encourage you to be intentional about what you allow into your home?  Every now and then, have a scan through some of the things that may have drifted in.  It shapes our children’s hearts and minds.  Prayerfully consider if/when/how you will introduce your children to certain subjects that are outside your worldview and value system.

The environment in your home is also determined by what you bring into your home. 

I’ve been challenged over the last few months about cutting screen time back to almost nothing.  We’re not big TV watchers anyway, but there are so many other things to do that are better for our children.  We have some new books from Christmas, and lots of fantastic learning resources and art supplies that can keep our children happy and occupied.  Something for us all to consider and be intentional about.

Building a Christ-Centred Home 

We hope to live out our faith much more as a family this year, and find those opportunities that exist all around us to love others with Christ’s extravagant love.  We are His hands and feet.  I love to pour out into the lives of those whom God has placed in our path.  Generosity, hospitality, words of encouragement, faith-filled prayers – we don’t have to be gifted in great measure, we only have to be willing.

If you’re looking at building your ‘wholehearted’ home this year, what is on your heart for where you intentionally build?  Family devotion times?  Serving your community?  Setting up better habits?  Bringing in ‘noble, pure and admirable’ books and music?  Establishing prayer and thankfulness as the first response?

Think and pray about these things, write them down, and put them in a place where you can see them. A Christ-centred home is at the very foundation of a ‘wholehearted’ homeschool.

Wholehearted homeschool

NB.  These essentials are not laid out in this manner in Clay and Sally’s most excellent book, ‘Educating the WholeHearted Child’ nor are they a summary of the books content. But rather this is what I’ve understood from reading their approach, and have used their words of wisdom and insight to develop our family’s own ‘wholehearted’ approach to our homeschooling.

You might also be interested in the other posts in this series:

{This post contains affiliate links}

Our Family’s Discipleship Approach

Our Family's Discipleship Approach

We are still very much growing into how we are to disciple our children.  We have the clear scriptural precedent that we, as parents, are solely responsible for training and guiding our children’s hearts to pursue a living relationship with Jesus.  We can invite others into this place, but scripturally speaking, there is no direct command given to any other role or person to fulfill this responsibility to raise our children to be followers of Jesus.  So in that aspect, we are certain.

As to how we do this however, we’re only just finding a rhythm and consistency in this.  Partly this has been due to having three young children, all at different places on their faith journey, and then we as parents continuing to grow and add habits that we need to be disciplined about keeping in place.

What is Family Discipleship?

Firstly, what is discipleship in the context of the family?  I believe it is partnering with the Holy Spirit in directing your child’s heart towards cultivating their own relationship with Jesus.

The heart of our family’s discipleship approach is to stir within our children a desire to love like Jesus, and to follow Him every day of their lives, growing deeper in their faith, and living out His purpose for their lives on earth.

We’ve decided that the very best thing we can do is to love Jesus ourselves, devote ourselves to knowing him, be extravagant in our faith and in how we express love to others, and our children will follow our lead.  We cannot lean on a method or curriculum to guarantee our children’s successful discipleship – these can be useful tools but do not replace loving nurture and guidance in stirring within our children a heart to cultivate their own relationship with the Lord.

Nurture and Connection

We’ve found that having gentle and sympathetic hearts with our children, and making our connection with them a priority, makes it possible to guide them from that place of relationship.  Let me add that we aren’t perfect, and we ask for forgiveness daily for impatience, stern words, and missing the target in other ways.  But establishing heart-to-heart connection is at the foundation of  building into their hearts.  Otherwise we would be doing nothing more than teaching good morals, and teaching bible knowledge as though it were a school subject.  Discipleship for us must be from a living, real, honest, relational context.

Shannon Jungle Tales (1895)

Some Practicalities

Admittedly, we have wavered in our consistently many times, and are only just reviving our goals in this area.  But here’s some of our approach and what we hope to grow into more this year:

  • Read the bible (or storybook bible) and pray together.  We bought a Discoverer’s Bible for our 8 year old, and enjoy The Jesus Storybook Bible with our younger children (we all love it).
  • Prayer is the first response rather than the last when navigating the storms of life, no matter what their size.
  • Children’s devotions are those designed for children to work through themselves or with your assistance.  We especially love “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” which is written for children ages 8+.
  • Family devotions are a way of bringing the family together and connecting together over His Word.  “Our 24 Family Ways” by Clay and Sally Clarkson is a favourite, which contains nicely-illustrated colouring pages for children to complete while they are listening.  Sometimes we just do a spontaneous family devotion at the dinner table.
  • Spending time with like-minded families is such a necessary part of building one another’s faith, and inspiring a desire to know Jesus and make Him known.
  • Worship with other Christians is something we love to do, and we have a community of like-minded families that we love to worship with where the children are welcome to participate.  It might look a little different from a family separating into two locations once a week and standing in rows to worship, but we love the freedom of creativity of allowing God to move in a group of people that love, honour and accept one another, with children a valued part of His voice and expression amongst us.
  • Worship music on in the house every day is something we’ve always done.  Worship is my great love, and I know it will form the soundtrack of my children’s childhood.  It’s our hope that the songs of their childhood will be remembered throughout their lives as a source of life, encouragement, and blessing.
  • Memorising scripture and displaying scripture so His Word is being learned and meditated upon regularly.
  • Audio bible is something we haven’t utilised yet, but plan to use when our children are a little older.
  • Intentional bible study and learning – we haven’t wanted bible study to simply be another school subject, but do want to gradually introduce more intentional study as they get older.  We want them to first and foremost understand that the bible is God’s Word – infallible, trustworthy and true.
    A couple of resources we are currently enjoying as part of our intentional learning are, “Who is God and Can I Know Him?” (Apologia text and accompanying notebook), and “What’s in the Bible” DVD series.

We have a growing collection of books containing stories of missionaries and some great heroes of faith (both historical and living), that seek to inspire children with what it can look like when lives are surrendered to Jesus.  A couple of films that we’ve watched recently (Father of Lights, and Compelled By Love) have reminded me that these will be a wonderful addition to our family’s discipleship resources at some stage.

Our Discipleship approach

One Final Thought

We aren’t simply aiming for our children to simply behave like Christians and grow up to be good people.  We want to present them with the truth that the power of the gospel will save them and transform them.  Yes we need a discipleship path that is grace-filled and intentional.  Yes we need to model them love and a living relationship with Jesus ourselves.

But also, we need to remember that the goal isn’t to produce children and eventually adults with good morals and behaviour.  It’s to train them up in the way THEY should go on the path of life, and encourage them to find out what God wants for their lives.  Instead of asking them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’, ask them ‘What does God want to do in and through your life?’  It’s all about Jesus, and what He’s done for us.  In dying for us, we can now live for Him.  And he enables us to do so.

You might also like my ‘Parenting and Homeschool book list, and ’Family Devotions and Discipleship book list.  There are many other great titles, but these are ones that we use and enjoy.

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What is a Living Book?

What is a living book pinCharlotte Mason was a pioneering British educator who first coined the term living books.  This is probably the most well known aspect of her contribution to education.

Charlotte Mason advocated using living books in every possible subject instead of dry, factual textbooks.  She believed books containing ‘twaddle’ should be avoided, as well as those books that contain content that dumb down the text for the audience of children.

Based on her writings (some of which I’ve read myself, and others have been articles by others summarising her words), I define ‘living books’ in this way (I hope Charlotte Mason enthusiasts will forgive me for simplifying):

“Living Books are those which have worthy thoughts, inspiring tales, inspiring ideas or pictures of life, and with fit and beautiful expression”. 

Worthy Thoughts – Living books touch on subjects that are timeless, classic, and appeal to all ages.  They will have depth and subject matter that is worthy of thinking on.

Inspiring Tales – Living books contain stories that stir your imagination and emotions, and characters that draw you into their world.

Inspiring ideas or pictures of life – Living books will spark your imagination and create vivid mental imagery of the books characters and setting.

Beautiful expression – Living books have layers of meaning, beautifully expressed language, and will leave you with an impression that lasts long after the book is finished.

What a living book is NOT:

  • Books on TV characters or cartoons;
  • Books with no moral value;
  • Books that talk down to children;
  • Books that are diluted, weak, trivial and stale.

Personally, we also avoid science fiction or fantasy, and serial fiction.

One of the things we also love to do is to listen to audiobooks.  There are hundreds of classic titles online now that you can listen to for free.  I encourage you to search on Librivox for some of these.  Listening does not replace reading, but adds another aspect to our enjoyment of some fantastic books.

I’m always on the look out for book titles that will add value to our homeschool, and I encourage you to do the same. We recently picked up pristine copies of some children’s classics from a thrift store for next to nothing.  Visiting second-hand books stores is like a treasure hunt for us!

Here are some of the titles on our growing book lists that we have enjoyed in our family, as well as some others that are on our wishlist.  We tend towards literary classics because they have endured with good reason – they are still ‘alive’ because they contain exactly what I’ve written about above.

Other places to look for great titles are those that carry the Caldecott Medal (for illustration), or the Newberry Medal.  Sarah Clarkson has also written a book called “Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families” which I recommend also.

You may also like to look on my Pinterest Board for additional titles: Books for Children.

Do you have ‘living books’ that are favourites in your family?

~ Victoria