That's how the conversation began. I heard the bedroom door's high pitched squeal, announcing the arrival of yet another child who needed something. Trying to quell my rising frustration of being interrupted - again - I asked, "yes dear; what do you need?" Very confidentially, my daughter strode over and informed me of the goal she had chosen. Ashamed of myself for a slightly edgy tone, I was so thankful the Holy Spirit kept my mouth shut and I didn't extinguish the spark in her spirit and miss the excitement she wanted to share. As a homeschool momma, these are the moments that thrill me most. Now in our tenth year, and with children who are growing and maturing, I sometimes catch a glimpse of the first fruits of our efforts. Yes, my husband and I value their academic learning greatly, but even more crucial is their spiritual growth. As C.S. Lewis explained it, "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil."
What amazes me most is that this is not something we prompted our daughter to do. It is simply the overflow of a heart that loves the Lord, and a spirit that has been nurtured to serve others. I hope that you do not neglect or underestimate the high value of character training. The funny thing is that you cannot buy a curriculum or workbook for that! Your text book is God's word and the course material is this thing called daily life. As Ted Tripp so often observes, the "big" moments are really all those small, daily, seemingly insignificant moments. A patient word when you've been interrupted a hundred times. A happy heart when you have to cook dinner again, following a long school day. A willing spirit to put aside personal desires and serve those around you, starting with your own children. What's the saying - more is caught than taught?
In addition to regularly reading and living out God's word, there are numerous ways to nurture godly character in children:
- Quality literature in which goodness and virtue is "lived out" in the protagonist is quite powerful. Often an author will accomplish this portraying the antagonist with the opposite qualities. I think this is especially meaningful for children as they discover what makes the "good guys" so good, and the "bad guys" so bad.
- Volunteer time at a local ministry. Once a week, once a month, or whatever your schedule allows, go as a family and serve others. Check with your home church or local association for places that need volunteers.
- Look for godly people who can speak into the lives of your children. My daughter was in the process of reading "Do Hard Things" (Alex & Brett Harris) when she came up with her idea. My son has a strong Christian man who calls him once a week to mentor him as they discuss various science topics and chess. From time to time I even take the children to chapel service at our local seminary where they are surrounded by young men and women who love the Lord and are called to serve Him.
- Pack a show box for Samaritan's ministry. This is a fun way to involve young children in a project. It isn't time demanding or on-going, and most children love to help shop and pick out the goodies.
If any of the ideas mentioned are not an option for your family, I hope they will help generate some thoughts as you seek to nurture both the heart and the mind! Start when they are young, make it a habit, and keep it a priority.