There’s a Big Difference!

I have often said that I miss teaching in a Christian school. Even while homeschooling my children, I often miss the group setting and activities that can be done with a large group of children. I live in a rural setting where the nearest Christian school is 40 minutes away and many people haven’t been inside except for the occasional sporting event.

Many people assume that they know what a Christian school does and doesn’t do. They get to talk about Jesus. That’s the difference between that and other schools…right? But lots of people in rural settings across America get to do that. Children can pray before sporting events and even encourage each other with Scripture passages taped to their lockers. So if that is the only difference, than a Christian school isn’t really a need in rural areas.

These are wonderful things and I give thanks to the Lord that these are able to be done in other schools. I also give thanks that the governing authorities haven’t put a complete end to it…yet. BUT BEING ABLE TO DO THESE THINGS IS NOT THE SAME AS HAVING A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL.

Please allow me to expand on what I mean when I say a Christian School and why I so desperately want one for my children and the children that I care so deeply about!

But before I do, please allow me to say that I love my teacher friends who are at public schools. They are some of the most devoted, caring people I have ever met and in no way is this an attempt to undermine or say anything negative.  I hope that readers are able to see that I am advocating for Christian schools without standing in condemnation of other forms of schooling. There is not a Biblical command for Christian teachers to only teach at Christian schools, nor is there a command that all Christian families send their children to a Christian school. God DOES tell us that we should bring our children up in the instruction of the Lord, but there are lots of different ways for us to do that.

So what might you find in a Christian school that you don’t find in another school? Let’s start with the obvious things: Teacher filing systems and learning aids will include ones for various Bible Stories, church holidays, and doctrinal ideas such as Trinity and the Resurrection. Bulletin boards will have scripture verses on them. Children will memorize scripture and hymns along with their spelling words for the week. School rules revolve around the 10 Commandments, which are referred to throughout the day. Discipline involves confession and forgiveness with reminders from scripture about appropriate ethical behavior for God’s children. Prayers are said in the morning, at lunch, and at the end of the day giving thanks to the Lord who has blessed everyone. Bible stories are taught as part of the day. Church holidays are celebrated (Holy Week is a HUGE event in a Christian school and doesn’t mention anything at all…or very little….of the Easter Bunny.)

These are the obvious things and hopefully you are already starting to see that there is, indeed, a BIG difference!  But those are just things on the surface. What about the core beliefs and values?  Our public school states that their goal for the students in their care is to become valuable members of democratic society and to go on to further education.  What is a Christian school’s goal? They realize that the society changes and that even those who can’t contribute to society are valuable. They believe that going to college and getting a good paying job is one way for children to serve others, but not the only way! A Christian school most importantly desires that their students know the Lord of the Universe, who created the world and sent His son to redeem it, including their bodies and souls, which will live forever. They want students who are educated in the way the world works and can communicate effectively so that they may serve others in whatever field of study or skill set they find their God-given passions and strengths to lead them to.

But here’s more:

Because Christians believe children are created beings, Christian schools realize students are unique. They strive to treat each one as such avoiding any curriculum that seems to fit them in a one size fits all approach.

Because Christians believe children are created and have value as such, they are treated with high regard and as a person capable of making observations and inquiry, not as an empty vessel to be filled with facts.

Because Christians believe that children have been given to parents to raise and nurture, Christian schools desire to communicate with parents, honoring their role, and working with parents (not usurping their roles) in the education of their children.

Because Christians believe that children are sinners, they acknowledge their need to hear that Christ died for them and receive salvation. They are in need of curbing misbehavior, rebuke when they go astray, and guidance in their Christian walk.

Because Christians believe that children are saints, they are given opportunities to grow in service toward God and toward others. They are seen as equals within whom the Holy Spirit is working the fruits of the Spirit.

Because Christians believe that children have vocations, they are strengthened to serve those around them and because Christians believe that children are also preparing for future vocations that Lord may call them to in the future, they are equipped with knowledge and skills they can serve their future families, employees, etc…

Because Christians believe that children are inheritors of the Kingdom of God, they are treated as beings that will live forever. They are reminded of their eternal promises of life and prepared to live with their Heavenly Father, whom they can trust in every care- both temporally and eternally.

Because Christians believe that children will live forever, their classroom management is authentic and done for the ultimate goal that children would know their God. Entertainment, gimics, and crowd control as forms of classroom management are dismissed as options because they do not serve the larger purpose of forming disciples of Christ.

INDEED—THE DIFFERENCE IS HUGE! But the above paragraphs only demonstrate what it is that Christians believe about children! What about how they view education?

Because Christians believe that God created all, Christian schools include studies of ALL subjects (not just reading and math.) They realize that God’s attributes are seen in all aspects of creation!

Because All the Earth is the Lord’s, all things are worthy of being learned about.

Because God made people of body and soul, education in dry facts is not enough. Real education involves appealing to children’s emotions and imaginations.

Because Christians see all vocations as pleasing to God, practical skills and academic skills are valued. Graduates attending technical school and graduate school are both given accolades for their preparation for service to others.

Because Christians rightly live in awe of God’s work, curiosity and wonder are maintained and encouraged in students.

Because Christians view learning as a receptive attitude toward an awe-inspiring God, learning is taught as a life long practice. Not just something useful until a job is acquired.

Because Christians recognize that there are faithful people who have lived before us, they uphold the value of history and maintain its teaching. They believe it is unwise to do away with the characters of history as “primitive” or “uneducated.”

 

I’m sure if I actually think more about this topic, there would be even more differences! But alas, I believe that I have made my point enough!

It is great that Jesus’ name is still allowed in other schools, but to think that it is then an adequate replacement for the services that a Christian School can offer shows that people do not know what the difference really is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Forgiveness Journal Activities

If you have been able to get your hands on a copy of The Forgiveness Journal and have found it edifying to your home, church, or school, you might be interested in these: The  Forgiveness Journal Worksheets . 

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There should be something for everyone! Let me know what you think and feel free to share a link to this page as much as you’d like!

My biggest desire is for this book to be useful to as many people as possible. Hopefully these worksheets will help extend the learning and application!

 

Mother’s Day or 4th commandment Idea

Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats is a well known children’s book that belongs in every family’s library. If you are not familiar with it, I would encourage you to borrow it from your library.

As I read this book to my little boy recently, a great idea struck me. Perhaps you might be able to use it in your family, church, or school as well.

Imagine reading the book, and then using its structure to create a book of your own in which the mother of each student is named as well as something she tells her children to do.

Perhaps the words might go:

“Down in the ____________(city, town, country, etc… where the family resides),

where the _________(Last name of student) family is,

lives __________’s (child’s name) mother,

and her little family of _______(number of children in their family)

_______ (instruction from mom) says Mom

“We dig” says the _____(# of children)

And they __________ (instructions from mom)

all day in the _________ (Same word as in first blank)

______ and ___________.( Two adjectives that describe the place where they live)

 

Not only would this be a great opportunity to have each student involved in making a page for a class book. It would also make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift! I love hearing children’s ideas of how to fill in the blanks.

It would also be a wonderful opportunity to discuss obedience and obeying father and mother, and grant an opportunity to practice modeling language after well known authors. Mimicry is a great form of education and requires grant analysis of writing in order to make it one’s own.  This is just one way future little writers are formed!

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

A Book on Forgiveness

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It’s here! It’s here! The book I wrote on confession and forgiveness is here!

May it be a blessing to families, teachers, and churches as they teach their little ones (and refresh themselves) on the beauty of this Christian way of life.  It definitely isn’t  some pie in the sky teaching of the church, but it instead a Biblical truth that is incredibly practical and life giving!

Enjoy!

The Forgiveness Journal

Ash Wednesday Art

Have you been looking for an easy, beautiful, interactive way to talk about the meaning of Ash Wednesday with your children? Consider this….

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I did this last year with my three oldest children. It was easy, relatively mess-free, and provided an opportunity for us to prepare for the coming Ash Wednesday service.

First, I drew a very light outline of a cross in pencil on the desired sized paper.

Second, my youngest used a black stamp pad and his index finger to put finger prints all over the paper EXCEPT inside the cross.

Then, the next youngest went after with the task of adding more concentrated finger prints in certain areas.

Finally, my oldest had the finishing work of creating the most concentrated areas and adding some to areas that looked bare.  I erased the pencil lines and VIOLA!  I put it in a frame and it remained on our living room shelf/mantel for Lent. On Easter, I replaced it with a more colorful cross.

I think this would also make an amazing collaborative art project involving individuals in a congregation before or after Ash Wednesday Services.  (I mean, what else are you going to do to keep kids busy between the soup supper and service? Seriously!)

 

Illustrated Hymns

My family enjoys singing hymns together.  We usually pick a hymn every 6 weeks or so and memorize it.

We usually pick one that is appropriate for the church season, that has repetition or a refrain, and that they hear often. Sometimes this means it is a part of the liturgy.

My active, kinesthetic children often make up actions to go with at least one of the verses, but another good way to involve another sense is to have children illustrate the verses.

Kloria Publishing is a fairly new publishing house that puts out BEAUTIFULLY illustrated hymns. We have all of the books they have published so far and my children LOVE them.  I cannot emphasize what quality work they do and how much I think you should support this company by buying their books!

Go check them out. 

Funerals and Kids

It is an unfortunate reality for many that loved ones pass away in months following Christmas and entering Spring. Attending or planning a funeral can be an emotionally taxing experience for adults and because of this, many wonder if it is even more unbearable for children. Instead of bringing children to a funeral, some parents opt to find a babysitter or stay home.

In this blog post that was first featured on the blog, Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife, I explore the benefits of taking children to funerals.

May God be with those who mourn in hope. If that is you, please know that I await the coming of the Lord with you. I pray that you may speak words of hope to your children as you answer their questions spurred on by seeing your tears.

With Love,

Alison

Worship Notes for Kids

There seems to be an interesting stage of development when it comes to kids and church. Somewhere between paying attention for a few minutes at a time and paying attention for the whole service, there is a brief season where children seem to benefit from a little training in how to listen, what to listen for, and how to assimilate what they hear into their lives.  Those who are familiar with Classical Education know that narrating what you hear into your own words is a very useful way to assimilate information, but how do you accomplish this when narrating sermons and church services can not happen until you get home- often an hour or more after the service?

Here is one idea. This is a sermon note taking form that an LCMS pastor’s wife created for use for her own children. It is free to download and use. We have used it for our eldest daughter.

Worship Notes for Kids

Stay tuned for a few other ideas I have compiled to help parents with this task.

Valentine Cards

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I know of a great resource for you.  Emma, at Knowledge of Him, has created these Christian Valentine Cards that are free to download and use.

You can color them with crayons, with watercolor paints, or even with some Q-tips with paint on the end.  The options are endless. Enjoy sharing God’s love with those around you!

Get them here!

A Simple Christmas Program

I once spoke with a 94 year old woman about what church was like when she was a child. She told me about men and women sitting across the aisle from each other and how her brothers and sisters took turns begging to sit by the wood burning furnace in the Winter months. She spoke of hats on women and no hats on men.

Then, she spoke of Christmas. A smile swept across her face as she proceeded to quote Luke 2 word for word. After she was finished, she leaned closer and proudly told me that every child in their Sunday School class memorized the chapter. On Christmas Eve for at least 10 years, this woman and her classmates stood in front of the church and recited Luke 2. Each child had only a couple of verses they memorized as “their” verses, but as they heard each other speak, the children ended up memorizing the entire chapter.

I was on the Board of Education at our church when I had this conversation and I immediately implemented what I heard. It was a perfect solution to so many of the problems we had with our Christmas Programs. Here’s a list of the difficulties. Perhaps you are as familiar with them as we were!

-Difficulty in finding volunteers

-Lack of time to devote to researching, planning, and organizing a Christmas Program

-Children being absent from practice due to sickness, sports, etc…

-Congregation seeing the Christmas Program as a show put on by the children

-Frustration that any lines memorized were just for the year and not long lasting

-Christmas Program Practice took the place of Sunday School during that part of the year so that the Bible Stories from that time in the Church year were being missed

 

I am sure there are more.  The Board found out that the sister church in our dual parish situation had already come up with a workable structure for a Christmas Program that was true to the Biblical Account. Wouldn’t you know it?!? It was based around Luke 2 and had a few songs placed intermittently.

We have since done this program for three years. The repetition has been a good thing for the children’s memory. It lightens the load for volunteers and it helps everyone contemplate what a Children’s Christmas Program is really for.

What is a Children’s Christmas Program for? It isn’t a show for grown ups! Yes, children are humorous, beautiful little people and we will no doubt delight in their little personalities, but they are not circus animals. We do not need to bribe them to stay on “stage” when they don’t want to, nor do we show disappointment when they are shy and nervous about being in front of people.

They are children of God who are being taught God’s ways. We are teaching them what God has done and what He promises to do in the future. Memorizing Scripture and hymns prepares them for a time they may not have the luxury of being able to read due to senile eyes or Bibles being nonexistent. My 94 year old friend could recite the precious story of her Savior’s birth even though she couldn’t read the newspaper due to trembling hands.

When viewed this way, even practices are not merely preparation for the “real deal,” but are valuable in and of themselves. If a child will not be there due to being out of town, they still heard Scripture and the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth during practice. Children who get stage fright and end up not “performing” that night haven’t wasted their parents’ time, but instead have been gifted opportunities in practice whether they stand in front of people or not.

The repetition of this program has also granted freedom! We are no longer slaves to finding the newest, greatest program out there with the catchiest tunes. We have a base structure that can be changed based on factors that differ from year to year. More challenging or easier songs can be picked based on the age of the children. Older children can be given more difficult bible verses. The children can sing some hymns together, allow others to do some ensembles, or even ask the adult choir to participate. Every year’s program has been a little different. But they have all been delightfully familiar.

Here’s our program if you are interested in adapting it for your own use.

A simple Christmas Program