Monthly Archives: March 2007
In 1 Thessalonians 3:12, Paul warmly prays for the Thessalonians “may the Lord make you increase in and abound in love toward one another.” These dear saints were under severe persecution at the time and Paul recognized their need for commitment and affection toward each other if they were to persevere in their calling to present the Gospel message. The same is true for the husband and wife who are called, together, to disciple and lead their children in the faith. Their love for each other must increase and become even sweeter over the years. This will only come by investing in each others’ lives and by setting aside the time for each other.
My husband, wise man that he is, made the decision about 20 years ago to institute what he called “date night” in our home. This is one night reserved each week where we will actually have a complete conversation across the dinner table, eating adult food, and pausing to clean up nothing that has been spilled unless it was spilled by a grown up! We will laugh and we will enjoy each other the way we did in the courting days. We don’t spend much time talking about children or school on those nights but we do talk about our interests, about theology, what each other has been reading, plans we have, and sometimes we just dream together.
Moms need to have one evening each week where they can be a wife. They need to feel that they are valued for who they are as women, not only as mothers. They need to be able to relax and talk about something other than spelling quizzes and music lessons. When one night a week is named as the special time for just mom and dad, mom has all week long to look forward to and prepare for it. She will not feel frustrated that there is no time to have long conversations about things that are important to her when she knows there is a special time during the week just for that purpose.
A weekly date night is just as important to dad as it is to mom. I remember one particular date night where this was proven to me. One of my husband’s co-workers had been injured in an accident at work and was in the hospital. It happened to be on a Friday, our usual date night, and we decided to visit him while we were in Peoria. When we came in the door, he was thrilled to see us and also surprised. He said, “Wow, I didn’t expect to see you guys. This is your date night, right?” Until that evening, I didn’t know that my husband had talked about our weekly date night at work and that he had made sure everyone in the office knew he had to leave on the dot, if not early, on Fridays because he didn’t want to miss date night! Not only did I feel valued but I also learned that our times together were just as important to him as they were to me.
I know the concept is not a new one to many people and various homeschooling support group leaders have encouraged moms and dads to set aside time each week to be alone and enjoy each other’s company. But I know that there are many couples who are still struggling with the practicality of pulling off a date night so I would like to offer some suggestions for making this time of refreshment a reality in your home.
Date night doesn’t need to be formal or elegant. Prepare a picnic lunch with real plates and glasses in a basket, pack your Ipod with mini speakers, a lovely table cloth, and head to the park. Play some of your favorite tunes as you have dinner and enjoy the great outdoors. Carry-out is also an option so mom doesn’t have to cook! Hot dogs at a ball game or tacos at an outdoor band concert are also fun.
Be creative with your childcare options. When our older children were small, we set aside money in the budget to pay for a sitter for one evening each week and sometimes the children stayed with my parents who lived nearby.
As our older children grew up, they were the sitters and we used the sitter money for them to order pizza, making the evening special for them, too. Now we only have two teenagers left at home but they are responsible for taking care of my elderly mom who has lived with us for many years. All three of them now enjoy pizza and movie night!
There were also times where we couldn’t leave the children so I would feed them early and make a special dinner for my husband late at night when they were in bed. Even now I like to set up candles all around the edge of our deck railing and surprise my husband with a favorite meal. Another option is to trade evenings of babysitting with another couple who has children.
Spend as little or as much as your budget allows. We have gone to movies or concerts on date nights. We have taken long walks along the Peoria riverfront or at parks in our area. I usually pull out the arts section of our local newspaper to look for all the terrific options available each week. One of our favorite things to do is to spend an hour or so at Borders and then have dinner and chat about the books we bought! Occasionally we have invited others to share our date nights, including nursing babies when necessary, but usually we prefer to go alone.
Set aside time for a weekly date night. You will never be sorry that you did!
“Since she taught an adult Sunday school class, she spent several hours every day studying the Scripture passage for the week, consulting commentaries and reading the likes of Charles Spurgeon and Harry Ironside to be certain she was gleaning all there might be to find. She was her own sort of treasure hunter, seeking for pearls of truth on every page. I was the wide-eyed apprentice, observing the work of a master, observing the work of The Master.” Listen here for this week’s podcast entitled Are You Contagious?
To some people, the concept of “quality time” brings to mind the mommy war debates over which is more important, “quality time” or “quantity time.” Homeschoolers are well aware that both are important. After all, if you came to my home for Thanksgiving dinner and I served you one tablespoon of stuffing, even if it is the best stuffing you have ever tasted, the quality wouldn’t matter would it? By quality time, I am referring to time spent alone with individuals within the family, husband and wife, mom and one child, brother and sister, etc.
Dr. Gary Chapman lists quality time as one of the five needs that all family members have and for some human beings, it is the most important “language” that they speak or have spoken to them. If you are someone whose love language is quality time, it doesn’t really matter what sort of activity you are doing, you feel loved by the person who initiates spending time with you.
I remember one Christmas, the year when one of my older sons had just started his paper route. Several times he mentioned to me how he was going to buy presents for everyone in the family and he diligently saved his money each week. Life was pretty hectic with three preschoolers in the house, older children to homeschool, as well as my own holiday preparations, and I hadn’t yet taken time to take him shopping.
One afternoon I sensed that he was feeling a little down and then I remembered how important buying these presents was to him so I suggested that we go to the mall, just the two of us. His face lit up brighter than the decorated tree in the living room! “You mean, just you and me?” he asked. I felt my heart sink to my shoes. I hadn’t realized it until that moment, but he really needed one on one time with me. In the midst of being a homeschooling family, I had missed being somebody’s mom! That evening we went out to dinner, just the two of us, and I mostly listened as he talked and made me laugh. And then we spent several hours shopping as he proudly bought gifts everyone in the family would love. Both of us went home with “emotional buckets” that were full!
Spending a lot of time together with our children was one of the main reasons my husband and I wanted to homeschool. But, as happened to us, I think many families assume that because you are home together all the time and are whizzing through your lesson plan books that you have spent quality time together. The truth of the matter is that quality time involves listening to your children and learning from them. It involves doing things you might not ever chose to do yourself, alone, like launching model rockets, playing a board game, or watching an episode of The Three Stooges! (Believe me, I would never in a million years choose to do that alone!)
It also means that each parent must find time to do these things with each individual child. Since homeschooling families are typically larger than other families, you have to use all your creativity to pull this off. It can be something as simple as taking just one child along to the grocery store or to sit with you while the oil is being changed in the car. When our daughter was in college, my husband would take just one of the other children along on the 14 hour car trip to pick her up. He was able to enjoy the company of one child on the way and my daughter alone on the way back when the younger one took a nap in the car! All of them have great memories of those times with dad.
Quality time doesn’t necessarily require talking about the great truths of life. You need to avoid having “a hidden agenda” for those times because your children will know that that is what you are doing and the delight will be gone for them. Don’t be tempted to think that “redeeming the time” means only doing spiritual or academic things or attending outings with other homeschooling parents and their children. It is important that the way you spend your time is unique to your family. If you decide to plan activities because you have seen other homeschooling families do them or because they are suggested by favorite homeschooling speakers, your children will not feel valued.
How often do we see examples throughout the Gospels where Jesus is taking time to get away from the crowds of people? He knew it was important to relax and spend time with his disciples. In the process, they asked him questions about the Kingdom and he answered them. If you are spending time alone and your child is feeling valued and listened to, those important conversations will happen but they will happen naturally and spotaneously.
Next time we will talk about the importance of quality time between mom and dad.
When I was in high school, I took four years of French. When I went to college, since French wasn’t offered, I took Spanish. Then, when my husband was in the military, we lived in Germany so I took a beginning German class. Though I did learn some conversational skills, perhaps the greatest insight I gleaned through all of it was that once you know “how” to be skilled in a language, you have won half the battle.
Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the best-selling Five Love Languages Series of books has identified the five special ways that love and appreciation is communicated to individuals. He believes that each human being needs to experience all five ways but also that each person receives love best in one of the five ways. His life’s work has been to train people how to identify their own “love language” and how to recognize it in those they love so they can cross the “language barriers” that cause relationship breakdowns.
If you live in a family, you know that conflicts are inevitable. We are, after all, human beings who sin regularly. As homeschoolers, the relationships take on an even greater dimension. We add the “teacher/student” relationship and the “classmates” relationship to the already intense “parent/child” and “siblings” relationships. As a husband and wife, you become more than spouses and parents; you become co-workers and mentors as the teachers of your children. And all of this is done under one roof and in large amounts of time spent together. It is crucial that communication with and understanding of each other flows naturally throughout the household. And if one of the six traits of building a strong family is to express appreciation and affection for each other, it is even more important to know how best we can do that with each individual family member.
Let me give you an example. One of my children has some special needs. He does not look at life in the same way that the rest of us do. He is extra sensitive and is easily offended because of the frustrations I know he feels as he struggles to learn things that come much easier to his siblings. Teaching him has required an extra amount of patience and a willingness to not go by someone else’s time table or formula for learning. But the whole family has learned a lot about ministering to one another through the process. In fact, when this child was a toddler, our oldest son, while helping me take care of him, observed that our whole family had learned the character trait of “attentiveness” simply because of this one child and the care he needed. As we all have learned how to express our care for this child, we have learned much about expressing care to each other.
So what are these love languages? I will share them with you and discuss them individually as they relate to homeschoolers. Briefly, the five languages are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. (I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Chapman’s books. They are all in paperback form and can be purchased for a few dollars each through half.com or Amazon used books.) Next we will look at the love language of “quality time” and the unique ways that homeschoolers can be certain that everyone receives this important communiqué!
Mondays are always a day of great refreshment for me. I am typically an early morning person and like to get up at 4:30 am when my husband and sons go off to deliver newspapers. I love the quiet of the house, the permeating scent of fresh brewed coffee, the anticipation of a new week, “fresh with no mistakes” as Miss Stacey reminded Anne of Green Gables!
Mondays are also times of reflection; it is when I look over the notes from yesterday’s sermon or, on sunny days when I anticipate taking my walk outdoors, of uploading it to the IPod for a second listen. I find myself singing the songs we sang in worship, humming the praise music as I load the washing machine and pull out school books for the week. I ponder the goodness of having a family. Friday evenings Clay and I set aside for “date night” and Sunday evenings we have a scheduled speaker phone chat with our son in college. This weekend was extra special because it brought the news of two new grandbabies coming to us this fall! My spiritual tank is full and inspiration and encouragement cover my soul. Praise and thanksgiving are the natural outpouring of a heart that is grateful and Mondays I am always grateful.
Expressing appreciation must certainly be important to God because He requires it from His children. Do you remember the story of the 10 lepers in Luke 17? They came to Jesus, begging him to have pity on them and so He healed them. They all went away but verses 15-18 say “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him, and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And then he said to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”
Several truths jump out to me from this passage. Having just entered this village, Jesus was probably physically exhausted as these men approached him, yet he heard their cries for mercy. God never sleeps nor slumbers. He is there, in the midst of the Monday morning laundry, giving us strength for the week, showing His tender mercies toward us. His availability to us is reason alone for us to be grateful.
You might notice that the grateful leper shouted his praise so that everyone could hear; his testimony was an example for all of us! And he fell down at Jesus’ feet, an act of humility and service. We must do no less! Our service to others and our testimonies of God’s mercy and faithfulness to us will inspire others to enter into a relationship with Jesus!
Jesus’ last words in this story are convicting; how many times have I taken God’s goodness to me for granted? How many times have I failed to thank Him for His good gifts? Even the very next breath I take is a precious gift from His hand!
We need to recognize that ungratefulness to God is a sin and is listed as such in several passages of Scripture. In Romans 1:21, not being grateful to God has the idea of “not recognizing God as God” and in 2 Timothy 3:2 is listed alongside the sins that represent being “lovers of selves rather than lovers of God.” Paul goes on to tell Timothy that the fruit of ungratefulness is “having a form of godliness but denying the power of God!”
Take a few minutes today to reflect on God’s goodness to you. Praise Him for His tender mercies toward you. Thank Him for His promises to you. As you demonstrate your love for God, your hearts will be prepared to show love for your family! Next, we will talk about learning the unique ways individual family members want to be appreciated.
“As I pursue my heavenly journey by thy grace, let me be known as a man with no aim but that of a burning desire for thee, and the good and salvation of my fellow man.” from The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett.
As Stinnett and DeFrain began to analyze the results of their research project, they discovered that one trait kept coming to the surface repeatedly to the point that they said “expressions of appreciation and affection permeated relationships within strong families. They let each other know on a daily basis that each is appreciated.”
Why is this so important? Dr. Don Clifton describes it this way. Each person owns an emotional health “bucket” that needs to be kept full in order for others to “dip from it.” In other words, we cannot give out to others what we do not have ourselves. So, in reality, the health of the entire family is based on the ability of every family member to add to the filling of each one’s bucket!
This explains why we all know individuals who struggle to ever say a kind word or offer praise for another person. They cannot do it because they are, themselves, “drained” of the ability to do so. Or perhaps past personal struggles and failures have left them with leaky, cracked buckets! (Be sure to check in for the April 14th podcast when I address the issue of “baggage” we carry into our homeschooling experience.”)
As believers, we are commanded to “encourage one another” and to “bear one another’s burden.” Part of that command is to express to each other genuine appreciation and affection. And you can be guaranteed a ripple effect right through the family if you start with a simple “Hey, what a great job you did cleaning your room” or “Thanks, honey, for taking the trash to the curb this morning. I really appreciate it that you were so thoughtful.”
This week I will have some suggestions on how homeschoolers can build strong relationships in their homes by showing appreciation and affection.
My husband just reloaded all the podcasts and adjusted them so that you ought to be able to download each podcast in under 40 seconds if you have DSL. Dial-up connections will take a little longer. I hope this helps those of you who were struggling with the downloads.
”We parents have often concentrated on rightly discerning truth as it is presented in the Scriptures, as well we all should do , but without showing our children how to graciously show the love of Jesus to those who are not yet Christians and therefore cannot have the mind of Christ. And, sadly to say, we also spend inordinate amounts of time worried about whether or not our kids can score well on SATs or if they have the outward appearance of the perfect homeschooler, but we aren’t too concerned about the issues of the heart.” Listen here for this week’s podcast entitled Instructions in Graciousness.
What is a paradigm? A paradigm is the word used to describe any number of scientific patterns, but in this case, a pattern for a homeschooling lifestyle. A simple proof that such a thing exists can be found in the comments that people outside the homeschooling community might make such as “You can tell they are homeschoolers” or “That’s amazing, I never would have known that you were a homeschooler” or “She dresses like a homeschooler.” Of course, those comments come with perceived bias but they do reflect the truth that many homeschoolers have embraced a paradigm.
What draws people to a paradigm? A few weeks ago, a long-time homeschooler was talking to me about this very thing. She said she has noticed that most of us who are in the 40-60 year age range of homeschoolers, grew up with moms who were at home with children and came from, for the most part, intact families. Most of our children have shared that experience with us. But there are many young families who are choosing homeschooling for their own children after having been raised in families where either they lived with a single parent or their moms weren’t home all the time. Homeschooling paradigms are attractive to them because they want something different for their own families than what they had growing up.
I think her point is a valid one. This leads to what I call the “Martha Stewart Perfectionism” of homeschooling. The difference is that Martha’s homemaking tips are just that, tips. They don’t come with the “godly womanhood” or “godly manhood” banners draped over them, notions that create expectations that aren’t fair or even biblical.
So what is wrong with a paradigm? I see several other things that concern me other than what I have already written earlier this week. One thing is that a paradigm is actually a repellant to many young families who are considering homeschooling their children. Twice in the last month I have read online discussions among Christians who are evaluating their education options for their children. By far, the number one reason they listed for not wanting to homeschool or for deciding against it after planning to do so previously, is the concern that they and their children will not fit in with the homeschooling paradigm. Sadly, the example of the homeschooling community, in embracing the nonessentials, is driving people away from what we all know is an awesome way of family life.
Secondly, a paradigm is comfortable, at least in the beginning. But a family that embraces a paradigm becomes lazy and doesn’t study the Word of God for themselves. They take what others state as gospel. They have to check in with the “expert” blogs to see how so and so is doing it. It requires little effort and, truthfully, little leadership on the part of the parents. Dads who think they are turning the hearts of their children to themselves are really turning the hearts of their children to the dad’s gurus!
Thirdly, and speaking of dads, while I am the first to believe that fathers are absolutely crucial to homeschooling, the truth of the matter is, if people are being honest, moms are doing the bulk of the homeschooling. The continual emphasis on fathers and homeschooling is ignoring this fact and, as I stated before, I feel like much of the paradigm promotes an attitude that the moms are just one of the kids, only taller. Homeschooling is not about promoting the father’s agenda. It is about a family working as one unit toward the common goal of loving God with our whole hearts and our neighbor as ourselves. It is about building a life-long closeness that comes from each one honoring the other’s gifts and callings. It is treating each other, dads, moms, sons, and daughters, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Fourthly, you may begin in a paradigm but you will end up in having a groupthink mentality. Groupthink is described in Wikopedia as “a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is usually used as a derogatory term after the results of a bad decision.” I think we will begin to see some of those bad decisions in the next ten years if homeschoolers continue to embrace some of the teachings within the paradigm.
So, Moms, what is the simple secret for demonstrating commitment to a husband and children?
We need to become students of our families, to learn what they like, how they like it, what their interests are, and what brings them delight. I cannot give you a list of what those things are. Only you will be able to get to know what delights your husband and your children. And then, as you do, you can minister to them, love them, and express your commitment to them in unique and precious ways! I can tell you, however, that there is joy in the journey!
Next, we will look at the value of expressing appreciation in our homes and how it is so important that it becomes one of the keys to having a strong family.