***Updated March 2019 from original publishing date of January 2015.
“Enjoy them now, they grow up so fast.” Any of us with young children have heard this statement countless times from well meaning relatives and strangers. At the moment, while we are pulling our hair out chasing our children around, the advice is hard to swallow. But, from someone in her 20th year of parenting, believe me it is so true. I want to encourage you that every season with your children is precious.
I look back on the times I had with young children with joy and happiness. I think, “Life was so uncomplicated then.” I knew their needs and I fulfilled them. They were simple things like sleep, food, and love. I would hold them, read to them and cook for them. That was my life ten-fifteen years ago.
These are some of my favorite photos from when my kids were young. Were they ever really this little??
Fall/Winter 2004. My four oldest, ages 5 to 3 months.
Some days I miss those years. Some days I watch young moms as they cope with the stress of taking care of young children — carrying the baby in the midst of multiple other tasks, chasing the toddler, juggling three children under five — and I remember when that used to be me and I feel a tug on my heart. As hard as those years were; they were also sweet. Those children needed me for everything and they loved me unconditionally. They could be wild and unruly. This is true. But they were also just amazing to watch. The innocence that surrounds little children as they play is beautiful.
In retrospect, I do miss those years. However, in reality, I do not. When I really think back I remember that those were hard years. Four children under the age of five can be very demanding. The physical abuse one endures – day in and day out – is exhausting. In addition, I had no freedom. Taking them anywhere was a chore: buckling the car seats, driving to the destination, unbuckling and getting everyone out, just to put everyone back in two minutes later. A five minute stop takes 30. And if I ever wanted a shower, I had to plan ahead and make sure everyone was in there designated spot to ensure chaos didn’t rain down during the 10 minutes I was out of sight.
Fast forward ten years. I have two teenage boys, two daughters on the brink of teen-dom, and two more who were still “little”. I have days when my children are teaching me; when I have to ask them how to do things. My oldest has surpassed me in understanding of mathematics and science. My daughter can ask to make cookies and I can allow her to do the entire process on her own — start to finish. If I need to go to the grocery store, it is no longer a major feat. I am no longer Mother Duck with my six ducklings following behind. I can ask my “olders” to please watch the “youngers” and feel confident that everything will be ok. The shopping gets done twice as fast when I’m not having to chase and reprimand children all the time.
Spring 2014. All 6 kids gathered around their favorite tree in the woods behind the house.
Now my oldest is in college and my second is graduating high school. My youngest is 10. Life is different now. We have different needs and different wants. Things are not so simple like they once were. I’m not always able to provide for the varying needs of my children as they have become more complicated (and expensive). They are learning more about the world and about themselves, and sometimes this means they argue with each other — especially as my two “born leaders” learn the right and wrong way to lead! I do not always have a clear answer on who was “right” and who was “wrong.” I have to get on my knees and seek God daily for the wisdom to respond to them correctly.
I still remember the first moment I realized the joy of growing children. All of us, the four oldest and me, were in the kitchen. I was mixing a meatloaf, Abigail was peeling potatoes, Hadassah was chopping them, and the boys were making biscuits. As I looked around my kitchen at each child as we worked together on the project, I felt my joy overflowing. Those kids who used to claw at me to fulfill their needs at all hours of the day were now helping me. We were having fun together, singing songs as we worked. It was a good time. Just so you know, an every day occurrence. The kids had asked me to make meatloaf and mashed potatoes and I didn’t have time to put it all together myself. I told them they would only get it if they worked with me and helped get it together. Looking back on it, I have realized the amazing reality that they were capable of helping me. It was a moment I treasure in my heart.
I can look back on my time with young children and enjoy the sweet memories. But we are making new memories now. And these are just as sweet.
My family in the fall of 2018
Obedience is an important, yet difficult concept that all children have to learn. While it may seem to come easier to some children than to others, at some point or another all children will have issues with disobedience. Proverbs 22:6 says to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Our goal in parenting, in raising children, is ultimately to raise godly people who desire to love and serve the Lord with all their heart. So how do we do that?
First, we need to know why we require obedience at all. We have rules because we were created in the image of God and He is a God of order and not chaos. God has a set of rules that we, His creation, must follow.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:4-7
Christ showed us obedience as He submitted Himself to the cross (Philippians 2:8). God has set a natural order to creation by placing the parents as head over the children. As image-bearers, we give our children rules that they must obey as part of the family unit. It is through learning to obey their parents, that children, in turn, learn to obey God.
How do we decide what the rules, or standards, should be? There is a bombardment of different views on the subject. Just a quick google search on discipline methods will produce hundreds of differing ideas on how best to raise your children. How do you decide what is optimum? Well, I’m here to tell you the decision is actually very easy.
The world is always wavering back and forth between the newest and greatest opinion on how to do just about anything. For example, anyone in their 30’s has seen a dozen different diets rise and fall in cultural craze over their lifetime. A dozen different ways that experts swore were the best way to lose weight. One year it was fat grams, just a couple years later it was carbs. It’s the same way with child raising theories, wavering back and forth in the sea of humanistic philosophies.
But, unlike the sinking sand of worldly thinking, we have a solid rock to build our lives upon (Matthew 7:24-27). The standard of the Word of God is unchanging and reliable (Psalm 119:89). Most importantly, it is the ultimate test of truth (John 17:17 and Psalm 119:160). Read through Psalm 119 and see how often the psalmist attributes his ability to make wise choices to the scriptures. When we raise our children based on the standards of the bible, it will have an effect.
A major way I used the scriptures as my children were in their formative years was through bible memory. There were certain verses in scripture that spoke to the specific behavior issues they were having. I used a family devotional called Sword Fighting, and made scripture cards to go with it. This book was based on Ephesians 6:13-17 which says, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God so that you will be able to resist in the evil day … and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.” Jesus exemplifies this concept in Mathew 4 by fighting temptation with the Word of God. The idea is to memorize scripture that we can then use when we are tempted to sin. We memorized these key verses and, through the cards I had hung on the wall, I would remind them of these precepts when they would inevitably forget and thus disobey.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God says, “My word… will not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) It is our responsibility to teach our children scripture as it relates to who God is, who we are, and how we should respond. It is God’s responsibility to change their hearts.
I am not going to go too deep into all the details of raising our children on the standard of the word of God, wiser people than me have already done that. I will, however, recommend a few of the books that made a big impact in my household. Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp, The Heart of Anger by Lou Prilio, and, more recently, Reset for Parents: How to Keep Your Kids from Backsliding, by Todd Friel. The key point I want to make is that by raising our children by the standard of the Word of God, and living by that standard, we can bring up young people who know right from wrong.
I have created a set of 16 scripture memory cards with some of my go-to verses that you can use with your children to “sword fight”. They are illustrated to make them easily understandable by all children regardless of reading level. I would love for you to have a set! Just click this link and I will send it straight to your inbox.
Send me some scripture memory cards!
Soccer and ballet have changed our lives. We used to have nice relaxing evenings. We would do school during the day while Chris was at work. In the evenings when he came home we would all sit down to a nice family dinner and then watch tv or read or play a game. We left the home for numerous church activities or for a family outing, but on the whole we were either homebodies or doing family endeavors.
Then these activities came into our lives!
Now Chris comes home and three nights a week we rush through dinner so we can head out and take our children to their respective practices. Our once peaceful, open evenings have become scheduled and rigid. Not to mention the Saturdays that used to be open to take road trips to the zoo or Silver Dollar City are now unavailable due to soccer games. And that is with just two of our six children involved! I can’t imagine it with all of them!
So why did we do this to ourselves? Why did we leave the sanctity of our family-controlled schedule to get involved in outside activities? After all, we are a homeschooling family! And not just a homeschooling family, but a large one! We belong to a rare breed! We are independent, preferring to do things our own way, in our own time. We have chosen not to put our oldest into traditional high school because of the toll it would take on our family time, but, rather, to involve him in several independent study classes on the computer and online. We do not fit in the mold of the average American family.
If you think about it, though, these endeavors have followed the philosophical path we have carved for our lives. As parents and educators we naturally observe and watch our children and how they learn, then adjust the curriculum and lesson plans to best fit their needs and individual learning styles. We desire to create the best learning environment for their young minds. Instead of throwing them haplessly into a multitude of different activities in an attempt to find their love, I’ve simply watched them grow. I admit, this choice was not purely based on philosophy, but on necessity. For a long time we could not financially add activities to our lives.
Suffice it to say, I have been observing my daughters for years, seeking to know what brings them the most joy. My 10 year old, Abi, has been dancing and prancing about the house since she could walk. Even as a toddler she seemed to have a dancers body. Listening to music or watching dancers brings such a joy to her heart, such a twinkle to her eyes, that I know this is a desire that burns within her. I sought for years to be able to give this to her. Ballet has given her a sense of confidence and individuality that is so important in life.
Alternatively, my 11 year old, Hadassah, is not a delicate dancer. No. She wants to run and kick. She is aggressive. She is always looking for someone to go out and play sports with her. And even though she has 5 siblings, it was often hard for her to find someone willing to give her more than 20 minutes at a time. She longed for more. Soccer has given her that outlet–for a 2 hour time-span, 3 days a week she gets together with several other middle-school age girls and they kick and run together. She loves it! It has boosted her spirit and given her something that is hers and that she is good at.
To that end, I believe that sports have allowed us to have the best of both worlds. As homeschoolers, we still have the freedom to choose our schedule and what we teach our children. However, sports have allowed my children a social and educational outlet that they can’t get at home. They get specialized training in something they truly enjoy and I still get to “choose” the curriculum!
We are taking it slow, not wanting to go from zero kids in sports to all of them at once! The chaos that would ensue might suffocate us. Abi started last year, Hadassah this year, and I’ll probably put my youngers in soccer this spring. We’re still finding a good fit for our older boys as traditional sports don’t interest them.
So, in the end, soccer and ballet have changed our lives–we think for the better. It took away free time that we formerly enjoyed in a different way. But the trade-off is so much more than what we gave up. These sports have added another dimension to our family life and to our children’s scope of knowledge and skill. I’m so glad we added them.