Archive for Family Traditions

Memorizing Scripture With Kids

One of our family’s biggest goals is having our children memorize lots and lots of scripture. We used to do single verses (and start with the excellent ABC Bible verses when our kids are preschoolers), but Anna told me several years ago that her family was having success learning bigger chunks together. Since Anna and I actually memorized some pretty great chunks together in college—Proverbs 31, Ephesians 1, Romans 8, a few Psalms—I figured we’d try it with T, too. After working through some Psalms, my husband decided we should tackle a Gospel. We memorize in the ESV, as we find it to be readable and accurate, and most of the churches we’ve been a part of have made the move to the ESV. Currently, my son and I are memorizing the gospel of Mark, just finishing up chapter 6. Since my oldest daughter joined us for formal school this year, she jumped in with us on the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter in 5.

What we do is simply take a new verse every school day and repeat it until it is memorized. On Fridays, we cycle through and review the previous chapters we’ve learned. It’s simple, but a few of you have asked for more details. Here’s what we do.

I have written out each verse in our school planner, so after we’ve started our day with prayer, I read it out loud to the kids several times. If there are any new words they don’t understand (last week, it was “overhearing”), I stop and explain the meaning to them. Once they feel comfortable, they start saying pieces of it along with me. Then we break it up and say phrases back and forth to each other, taking turns. Then we do one word at a time, with me pointing to each of us when it’s our turn to say the next word. Once we feel pretty confident, we lock it in by saying it in different silly voices: cowboy, princess, pirate, lego micromanager, robot, British accent, lion, mouse, Valley girl, opera singer. On days when they have the sillies, I have them clap each syllable as we say it. Or we sing and dance each word. Or hop or skip or march each word. Often, if it’s a bit convoluted (“to Caperneum, and Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon”), we’ll use hand or finger motions to help keep the phrases straight.

Finally, we put it in context, backing up a couple verses in the chapter and adding our new verse to the end. If the verse breaks off mid-sentence (or if it’s so long that we needed to divide it up between two days), I’ll finish by reading what’s coming next.

All in all, it usually takes less than 10 minutes. Throughout the rest of the day, we’ll often to ESV verses set to music (Seeds Family Worship or Fighter Verse songs) or just to You’ve Got the Time (an audio version of the NT, read aloud with some sound effects in 30 minute podcast segments). We don’t formally work to memorize those verses, but it’s amazing how well they get hidden in our hearts, too.

Posted in Family Traditions, Home Life, Homeschooling | Leave a comment

Happy New Year!

Happy 2015, dear readers!  Anna and I will be back with regularly scheduled blogging next week, but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you a lovely idea from one of my dear childhood mentors who took me out for tea while I was back home.

What do you do with Christmas cards at the end of the season?  I let the kids do one last look through, replace the pictures of our best friends on the fridge, then trash everything else.  But my friend Martha suggests taking time as a family to go through and pray for every family represented.  I love this idea, particularly as Christmas cards in our stage of life are full of new baby and new job announcements!

Now back to unpacking after three weeks on the road…

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Kids in Church

This week, we’re talking about church strategies for kids. As Emily mentioned on Monday, a lot of how you handle where your kids are while you worship depends on the church you’re in. Some church have all-family worship and no nursery, some have a limited nursery, and others will have full children’s church up through a certain age. We have been at churches with all three of these options, and that has taught us a lot about how we want our kids to worship with us.

At our church currently, there is a nursery available until your kids are five or six years old, at which point they are expected to stay in the service. We like this model a lot; it allows us to have our older kids in the service (and their friends in the service as well), but takes the pressure off of us for keeping track of the little ones during worship. We have a one-year-old and a three-year-old that both spend the entire service in the nursery. Our church is small, so they’ve grown to know the regular workers and really enjoy the time in the nursery. I’ve found that not having them allows me to concentrate on worship. Our five-year-old stays with us for the first half of the service. Right before the sermon, I slip out with her and take her to the nursery. She loves going down and seeing her siblings, and it’s helpful for the nursery workers to have her come in half-way through and break up the time for my littlest ones.

Our three oldest children stay with us the entire service. Our oldest, who’s eleven, can follow along in the bulletin, finding the hymns himself in the hymnal and reading along with the responsive readings. Our next two have a harder time doing this independently, so my husband and I keep and eye on them, making sure they’re participating. For the sermon, we have different expectations for each age group. Our oldest is expected to listen and take notes, and be able to tell us some of the main points at home. For our nine-year-old, we don’t ask that she take notes, but that she remember some of the points for us. And our seven-year-old is allowed to doodle on the bulletin. I find that even though she looks like she’s not paying attention, she can usually pick out a couple things to tell us after the service as well.

For us, church is always a bit of a hard parenting situation. We try to train our children both to love church, and that there are some very firm rules about behavior in and at church. This type of instruction is not without it’s grumpy looks and bad attitudes when we give a specific instruction they don’t like (“you may not run and yell in the sanctuary, even after church”). We’re always trying to walk the line between showing where the firm boundaries are, and helping them love being there. In many ways, it seems like a lot of other areas of parenting for me: we’re hopeful, that as we train and teach boundaries with rules that seem strict to some, our kids will learn to love and reverence the church and her people.

Posted in Family Traditions, Parenting | Leave a comment

Training Our Kids for Church

This week, Anna and I are going to share about how we train our kids to behave and participate in church.  I’ll start by saying that our family’s practice has varied depending on what church we attend and the ages of our kids.  Having moved so often, we’ve been a part of many churches with very different ideas about the role of children in the service.  We’ve been in churches where even the babies stay with the parents, but I personally have found that when I’m keeping the under-3 crowd quiet, I just don’t get much out of the service.  Now we take advantage of the nursery for our younger kiddos.

Our goal is to equip our children to sit through, participate, and benefit from a corporate worship service at a reasonable age.  As always, the training for this starts at home at a very young age.  We have family worship time each night before bed, and from age 2 on, our kids learn to sit quietly and listen to a Bible story, share prayer requests (for our family, friends, and the missionaries we support), and listen quietly while everyone takes turns praying.  We read aloud to our children from birth, so by age 4 or 5, the kids are able to sit quietly listening and paying attention for up to an hour without any electronic entertainment.  It’s not just their temperament; it is very much a learned skill.  We work on narration skills–repeating back the main details of what we just read or said to them–and train them to listen for details, particularly when reading the Bible.  We learn and sing hymns and other worship songs as a family during family worship time and in our homeschool.  So by the time the kids are old enough to join us in church, they’ve had practice with sitting still, listening quietly, paying attention, and participating in corporate worship.

Right now, our church actually has an excellent children’s program, and because we’re new to the church and want to build relationships, our kids all attend children’s church unless they are sick (in which case they come to the service with us).  However, at other times and places, we’ll keep the kindergartner and second grader with us in the service.  They enjoy singing and praying with us, but sitting through the sermon can be hard.  The 5 year old has paper and crayons to draw a picture of what she hears, since she isn’t reading or writing yet.  The 7 year old is expected to take some notes and follow the main thread of the sermon in a designated church notebook.  I’ll often help him by jotting down a sentence and having him fill in the blank.  If the pastor provides an outline, my husband or I will help T fill in the outline.  Sometimes I’ll have him copy the key verse out of his Bible.  He also will often draw a picture to illustrate the sermon.  My main goal is for him to learn to follow the gist of the sermon!  Here’s an example out of T’s church notebook from this spring.  As you can see, it’s nothing too fancy:

church notebookAt this point, it seems to be working well for our son, who enjoys children’s church or “big church” and seems to be comfortable in either setting.  Our kids all love going to church, and obviously we want to keep encouraging that!

What was your experience with church services growing up?  What do you do with your kids?

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