Focusing on the Heart
Start With the Heart (Kathy Koch, PhD)
Parenting, whether or not you homeschool, is a job that requires an intentional dedication. You can be an intentional parent who also sends your child to public or private school. I believe homeschool is a great way to educate a child, but it is not the only way! I have so many friends who are faithfully mentoring and leading their own children. God gave you a unique set of circumstances and children with different and unique personalities and needs. Do what is best for your children. Just be intentional.
I read this book by Kath Koch, Start With the Heart, on a much-needed vacation with my husband in January 2020. Little did I know it then, but we would be entering into a season of “staying at home” for a month or so, with all three kids needing me for what seemed like every second of the day. (BIG side note: Sure enough my daughter’s preschool year was called off, which made our homeschool plans, well…change. We did our school, don’t get me wrong, but we made it happen with a LOT of interruptions, and a lot of sister and baby bro time interspersed throughout. We also included the younger two in our homeschooling journey, and Classical Conversations made it possible. Since CC had turned to a video-based format, we were all able to enjoy doing the memory work together.)
Start With the Heart. The title says it all. It struck me to the core to read ideas I could affirm, but in reality, I was and still am a work in progress. Yes, we moms and dads really need grace. Some of Koch’s words made me think of my own children and even other people’s children with whom I interface almost daily. “Every child wants and needs to be known; being invisible is painful. Being understood is evidence of love. Note how I worded this. It’s not enough for you to know them, understand them, and love them. They need to know,” (p. 19).
Are my children secure in my love, as I point them to Jesus’s love? It is my prayer they will be secure in their parents’ love. It is hard being a parent. When there are so many needs, it is easy to fall into a deceptive trap that leads to the parent looking at himself/herself as the “victim” and feeling unjustly treated. When I falter, I pray I will come back to them and apologize to them, repent of my sin, and reconcile with them. Do I demand things of my children for my own comfort and relief, or am I pointing them to their sin, while showing them Christ’s mercy and grace because I actually care for their souls? Jesus was patient with me. Why can’t I extend that to my children?
Koch’s book is worth a read. She earned a PhD in reading and educational psychology from Purdue University. She is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., a Christian ministry based in Fort Worth, Texas. Her podcast, Encouraged with Celebrate Kids, is worth a listen, too. I love how she sees kids for who they are, and helps empower parents to go meet the needs of their children. It is an empowering thing because she gives practical methods for things like boundary-setting, encouraging children, and understanding the 5 core needs of individuals. It is parenting advice, but it is so much more. She is passionate about spiritual formation and Scripture. She is encouraging and positive. I always leave feeling more powerful than I did before I listened.
These two books below by the Tripp brothers are used a lot in Christian parent circles. I need to re-read. The former is a longer read than the latter, for your information.
Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
Parenting by Paul Tripp
Parents as Mentors (Sally Clarkson)
“A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40
I love Jesus’s words, recorded in Luke chapter 6. Jesus was the model. We look to Him because we cannot be the model He was. He is everything. Sally Clarkson writes in one of her many blogposts on mentorship:
“Modeling is not something that can be passed on by keeping a rule or memorizing scripture. Modeling and influencing another in godliness is only effective if it is authentic, real and lived out in the teacher who is in authority.” (Clarkson, 2019)
Too often I am tempted to swing the pendulum in the direction of legalism and morality. Oh, how insidious and wicked it can be. My own internal self-talk can be littered with a plethora of “shoulds” and “musts”. How sad! Maybe instead of protecting the gospel, I am protecting my own reputation or morality. Does anyone else relate? Thankfully, we have Jesus. The Gospel is the way. The truth that Christ has set us free from sin and therefore, if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation rings louder when I actually look upward and stop listening to that crappy internal tape. We have a mentor in Jesus who knows how we struggle, and cares about it.
Modeling for our kids a passion for Jesus is what we all need to pray for. Not a passion that ignites and burns out quickly, but a long, slow-burning passion. Sally Clarkson puts it clearly here:
“I could not be perfect, but I could be passionate about my love for Him, and grow in maturity, righteousness and character in front of my children, showing them how to discipline their own lives for finding maturity and growth.” (Clarkson, 2019)
She goes on to talk about spending time with God, to love talking about Him, to love engaging in His Word, in front of the children. If it’s authentic, it will show.
As a homeschool mom, I have found that spending time with God is better done when my mind is surrendered to His will. If I have a ton of “priorities” floating around in my mind and a drive to accomplish-accomplish-accomplish, then my sinful inclination is to neglect my time with God. What if I can ask Him to make me more faithful? To clear my mind for the moments He has desired me to have with Him? Then, to clear my schedule for those moments? Then practically, using an environmental cue might help. For instance, every time I bring down a load of laundry and get it started, I can grab my Bible and read for five minutes or so. Use an anchor in the day to which you attach your time with Him. God knows where you are in life. He knows your station and He knows it is NOT easy to break away to spend some time in the Word with Him on your own when the kids are awake. But what if you trust He will make a way tomorrow? Then, take the next step for tomorrow.