A wise parent will not rule with a rod of iron; neither will she leave a child to himself to do as he pleases. Instead, she lays down the rules, consistently guiding and correcting when needed. That same parent will also want to draw a child closer to his Creator. She will probably begin by trying to be a good example in front of her children. But she will fail and her children will see this and note it mentally. Being the wise mother that she is, she will have expected this and understand that she must also have a plan of action other than her own imperfect model that will help her child see the invisible with eyes of faith in a world where the material alone tries to woo the heart. At the same time, she will never cease to work on her own spiritual life, always aiming to be that positive example to her dear children.
I want to share some of the practical ways we are cultivating heavenly-minded children in our home. These ideas are only a very small part of our plan, but I believe they have been very helpful for our children's spirituality and it may give you some fresh ideas.
THE WEE ONES
When one of our children reaches the age of six, we give a small, handsome, thin, blank book and write on it MY PRAYER JOURNAL. We communicate from the beginning that this book is special. We don't scribble in it and we try to keep it clean and neat because we're writing to God in this book and He deserves our best. For the first few weeks, I wake that child up and bring him to the kitchen table or my bedroom so that we are alone. I write in my prayer journal and read my Bible while he sits beside me. I tell him that I am writing to God, would he like to do the same.
My child replies, "I can't write."
I say, "That's okay. You can draw a picture for Him and I will help you label it."
We brainstorm together thinking about what picture the Lord may like to receive from him and he begins. Other times, he draws a prayer to God- something he is thankful for or someone he wants to pray for, etc... I don't allow much talking. This is a quiet time. After a week or two of this, I start having him do this on his own in his bedroom as soon as he is dressed but before school begins. (I stress that this is NOT schoolwork. It's more important that that.) That is why we do it first thing in the morning. This should only last five to ten minutes. He brings it to me at breakfast and I check it. I help him spell words if he wishes but I am not picky about misspelled words. This should be an enjoyable experience. Over time, there will be days when he doesn't feel like doing it, but I don't let him live by his feelings and still require it regularly. However, it is always short and sweet. Don't be surprised if he draws the same picture over and over for several days. This is normal. Gradually, as his confidence grows (because his momma doesn't correct every misspelled word ) he begins to add more words and less pictures.
I also teach my children at six years of age to begin to take notes in church from the sermons they hear. (Before this age, they also sit in church with me but have Bible story coloring books or blank pages, a pencil and a few crayons) This keeps them busy and attentive. I always have my youngest child sit closest to me. He has his PRAYER JOURNAL open and draws something he hears from the sermon gradually adding misspelled phrases. I sometimes help him by drawing stick figures in his journal illustrating what the pastor is saying. This is very, very simple. I got this idea years ago from Edith Schaeffer in her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking- a book I highly recommend, by the way.
Here are a few examples from my children's Prayer Journals when they were 6 years of age.
Now, during school hours, after breakfast, I read aloud from a classic illustrated Bible story book to my six and seven year old children. We take two years to read through the entire Bible. I let them color a picture of the story while I read. Then they narrate aloud. I DO NOT like most Bible story books and must forewarn you that I am very picky about this. I think that cartoon figures of Bible characters trivialize the sacred, robbing a child of a sense of awe that I want them to feel when they are reading the greatest book every written. There have never been and never will be Veggie Tales in our home. That said, I recommend an illustrated Bible Story book that is chronological and has realistic paintings. My favorite is out of print but easily found in used book stores. The text uses rich vocabulary. No twaddle here. It is called The Children's Bible.
Another highly recommended one by others is The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos.
In my next post, we will move onto the next age group and I will share specific books and activities we have done to cultivate a personal devotional life.
one step at a time...