Another summer is upon us, and the grand question once again lingers: what are we going to do with the kids?
As a homeschool mom, I look forward to the unstructured days of summer. I like just being a cool mom, instead of the “do your work” mom. Depending on the needs and challenges of your family, it is hard to find that right balance between forcing your kids to be bored and actually use their imagination, and to keep them out of trouble by giving them activities, and to keep them from driving you crazy.
Whether you pick a structured or unstructured summer, the goals vary, between building your child up with activities and sports, so they are constantly challenged and entertained, you’ll soon find yourself swinging back the other direction of hosting things like “random acts of kindness” days where you want them to see the needs in their community, and you spend days helping your child put quarters in Aldi’s shopping carts and leaving money, notes, or treats in various places. We don’t want our kids to be self-centered with a summer focused totally on them.
What is intended to be days of teaching your child to focus on others ends up being self-satisfying days of “wow, it felt really good to do so many good works.” We swing back and forth between focusing on our own lives to focusing on good works for building other people’s lives. Both sides of this pendulum has the danger of pride and we fall into it every year. I want my children to feel good, but I don’t want my children to feel puffed up with pride. Could we be missing something?
It’s easy to forget that the gospel isn’t “let’s make our lives good, and make other people’s lives good.”
It is important that we teach our children to fix their eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Teaching them how to be good and moral won’t save them. It is so much easier to teach our kids the law, because we can teach them good morals without teaching them about God. It’s more socially acceptable. It feels like we get more credit for that. We cannot teach our kids the gospel (the completion of the law) without teaching them about Jesus. Everything hinges on Jesus, not us.
The 2 greatest commandments are summed up as “love God, and love others.” Somehow the culture translates that to “love others like we really like ourselves” and skip the whole “love God” part.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord 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. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind the as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Remembering the works of God leads us to worship. Worship is the gospel enacted. (Webber) It’s easy to focus on teaching our children how to do good works. However, we should be prioritizing teaching them about God, because without God, they will either get exhausted, be full of pride, be self-righteous, lacking all power, or all of the above. Remembering is the key. That means putting together, or re-member for our brains, the works of God.
When we focus our eyes on God, we have peace.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breath and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV
He grants us strength, not to do all the things, and be nice to all the people, but strength to understand the breath and length and height and depth of the love of Christ.
Friends, we are to teach our children to wonder at the love of God. Everything flows out of that. Let’s not skip that part. Let’s not create little self-righteous moralists. Let’s teach little ones to be in awe of a God who will love them even when they fail, even when they mess up, no matter what, unstoppable love. Because when they understand that—that could change the world.
The question I’ve been asking myself lately, is how can I approach this next season, where I can point my children to the works of God, instead of celebrating all of our works and accomplishments? How can we build some kingdom truths in their hearts, as we teach them about the law AND the gospel as we sit and as we rise?
Here are some of my ideas:
Play Scripture to music in the background of the day.
There is nothing wrong with having scripture memory competitions, and pushing hard with goals. But when the immediate goal is to help my children focus on what God has done, I need some Scripture, without the added side of accomplishment. Music is such a passive and enjoyable way to get the Word of God into our hearts. It’s easy, enjoyable, and beneficial. We don’t have to dress up the simplicity that “faith comes from hearing the Word of God.” (Our family’s favorite from toddler to teenager, hands down are the Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible albums. Not an affiliate link. They’re on iTunes too.)
Go on nature walks.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaims the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1. Let this be a summer of star gazing. Let it be a summer of hikes in woods or down canyons, or somewhere where the air is fresh and his beauty is proclaimed. Let your children learn to marvel and what God has done. Not only does it bless us with better mental and physical health, but it communicates in ways that words don’t how detail oriented God is, how vast God is, and how imaginative God is. Not only does nature uplift our souls, but it provides the peace and time that provokes kids to open up, wonder about things, and feel like now may be a good time to ask their questions, or speak what is on their minds.
Have a “family day.”
This was an idea planted in my life by Sally Clarkson, as something her family does every August. We set aside one day to talk about our family. We pull out all of the scrapbooks and picture albums. We bring out yearbooks and baby clothes. We visit great-grandparents in nursing homes, and ask the grandparents to share a memory with the kids that day. We try to manage a family picture for Christmas.
This idea of remembrance has significant biblical purpose. Whether or not you come from a Christian family, when you start to tell your family story, the kids quickly put together what God has done, not just for those people in the Bible, but for your family—for their family. “We were once here…but look what God has done.” “Look how God was faithful.” “I remember when we were so scared, and this is how he provided.” “I remember when this person died, and this is how God comforted me.”
A family day turns into a day remembering the works of God on a personal level for your family, and shows in concrete ways how his hand is on their family.
I think one of the reasons that we are told to approach God as little children is because with children, anything is possible. Their imaginations aren’t limited. Everything is a delight. Don’t breeze by the fact that Jesus taught through stories. I have read theologian after theologian talk about the impact that great stories have had on their faith. Sarah Clarkson, who is an expert in the correlation between faith and stories said that the imagination stretches the capacity for faith. We only need faith as small as a mustard seed. We don’t need a lot to please God. But God can do so much more than what we ask or even imagine. Imagine big. Not because we get a higher status, or because we can show off, but because it’s plain delightful to see what God can do.
Read great stories to your kids. Don’t settle for trash or twaddle. Fill them with beauty and grand stories of other worlds and dragons and heroes. Don’t pick stories because they are preachy. Pick them because they’re epic. Pick them because the language is beautiful. Pick them because they are filled with hope, when it seems like all hope is gone. Make it a read aloud summer, where you share stories. (If you need some suggestions, I have a few HERE.)
What are some of your favorite things to do with your kids in the summer? Share your ideas!