Interpersonal Relationships

Interpersonal Relationships

Posted in Keystone Magazine Articles

Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough - Part 8

by Craig & Barbara Smith

"Be still, and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10. How are we going with being still like this? We have had the holidays - a good opportunity to take some extended time alone with God to think on the year ahead. I had some forced time on my hands after an operation and nearly two months of recuperation just after I wrote part 7 for the November 2003 issue of Keystone. I had a wonderful time in the Psalms! I made all sorts of promises to myself that I would keep up these wonderful extended times with the Lord in His word after my recuperation finished. But, well, you know how it is....I got busy...isn't life like that? We have to ruthlessly make the time to "Be still", set it as a priority and take the time from some other activity. This is really tough. And that is what this series of articles is about: how to keep going when the going gets tough. Our first article touched lightly on the need for us to plan for time alone with God each day. We had three articles on dealing with marriage difficulties and one on child discipline. We explored the need for each of us to be readers and how to be effective readers, and then we looked at what we should be reading and some guidelines to help us to be discerning readers.

So how do we make more time for the important things in our lives? In part 7 we looked at Support Groups and our involvement in the local Church. This time we want to explore other areas in our lives and see if we are doing the best with our time and talents.

Some of us work really hard and appear to get great results in our home education. Some of us work just as hard and appear to get fewer results. Stop looking at each other! Let us instead examine, first, what results are we actually aiming for; second, how focussed we are on getting them; and, third, what distractions are hampering us. We all struggle over various curriculum, different philosophies of education, marriage difficulties, discipline problems, etc. We desperately need to find ways to keep going when the going gets tough.

When Craig and I began home schooling, we created a wee school in our home which even included a teacher's desk. We used a variety of curriculum until we discovered more by accident that the children loved us to read all sorts of books to them. They also loved to have long discussions around the dinner table and getting extra time with us. That is, even though we were with them all day, they wanted their own individual one-to-one time. So Craig started getting up earlier each morning, investing individual time with a different child each day of the week. They all loved it! We also realised that when we interacted with our children rather than leaving them to interact with books on their own, we got far greater results.

So we morphed through three different educational philosophies: schooling at home, curriculum centred and delight directed, our family's favourite. Craig actually mis-read the article he had on "Delight Directed" learning: he thought it meant whatever delighted him would direct what he taught the children. The official version said what delighted the child should direct the studies. Craig reckons he developed a new philosophy of Home Education! You know why our children loved this approach? We reckon it was because they loved to study the things their Mum and Dad were interested in, just like the toddlers who want to play with your pots and pans, papers and pens, rather than their bright expensive toys.....because they see and sense your far greater interest in the pots and pans than in their toys.

Later we became interested in character training, thinking that this was the most important aspect of home education. We were telling this to Genevieve, our then 22-year-old daughter, shortly after she arrived home from the States in December 2002. But she said, "No, the most important aspect of education after learning to fear God is interpersonal relationships. When we looked back on our 19 years of home education, we saw that the most enjoyable times, the times our children remember the most, the times when our input was most effective, were the times we majored on one-to-one interaction. Now this isn't rocket science: we've heard it all before, but we get to thinking and worrying about and stressing over all the "work" the children "should" be producing (we're not sure for whom) and all the "school work" we think we should be doing with them. So we do the bookwork, etc., rather than just sit and talk or play games or simply enjoy some unstructured time together because the bookwork /formal teaching scenario appears a better use of time. We now suspect most of us think this way only because we underestimate or give no value at all to the quality of our interpersonal relationships with the children and among the children. These relationships need work, for both maintenance and improvement....just like our marriages do. We should be making time for each child just as we should be doing with our spouse.

We used to let our children go to the normal range of things like youth groups, sports clubs, etc. But we had to ask the question, "Who has the personal relationship with our children?" Some children, especially those who go to school, really have no-one training them as in Deuteronomy 6 and Proverbs 22:6, not even their parents. Some children go to school, Sunday School, Youth Group, Children's clubs, ATC, Catechism, sports practice, the neighbours, watch a bit of TV/Videos each day. The parents get the time left over, usually when the children are rushing in the mornings and tired at night. Many of these clubs and the schools give out homework and practise exercises. So by the time the homework is done, there is no personal time for parents with their children. In fact, when the children go to all of these activities, no one person or authority has responsibility for the overall training of the children or building strong relationships with them. Consequently, the children grow up in spite of the parents, with little reference to them, their convictions, their plans, and worst of all, their responsibility before God to be responsible for their children. Is this what we want for our children. No!

Tom Eldredge in Safely Home(1) says about schools: "It is time for Christian leaders to re-examine the Word of God to discover what He has revealed regarding the education and training of children. We can no longer continue to adopt what we have learned about efficiency in our factories to the training of our children. We have developed a thirteen-year program [public schools] run by professionals and specialists in which children experience a routine of ever-changing, superficial relationships with teachers and classmates. This program teaches children some hidden messages: that no one really cares and that their life in this world is a survival-of-the fittest type existence. When these children become adults they naturally expect to experience the same types of shallow relationships."

We did not want our children to grow up as we did in these superficial and shallow relationships. After Genevieve's comment about interpersonal relationships and discussing the need to work on relationships as a family, she said the priority there was knowing one's own children. As we evaluated our family relationships, which we reckon are pretty good on the whole, we realised that we don't really know our children as well as we would like. In fact, we'd say, we don't know them the way we should: that to properly shepherd our children and have their hearts as the writer of Proverbs constantly urges, we needed to have been maintaining a close walk with them day by day. The fact that we are with them nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week doesn't mean we know them that well. It is something we specifically need to be working on daily from when they are little. We need to listen: when they read a book, they want to tell us every detail. We need to listen like it is the first time we heard it. We need to be discussing with them many of the things going on in our day. Then keep doing that when they get older. Genevieve invited us to ask all sorts of questions of her and her siblings on an ongoing basis, so we would learn all about them and what they are thinking. We need to be their best friends, not like when a parent tries to be up on all the latest teeny-bopper stuff, hoping to connect with the child in that way. We parents should be the older-wiser confidant to whom our children look first for advice because they are so comfortable and trusting of us, knowing we always have time for them and have few higher priorities than them. This starts when they are little. If your TV or newspaper or hobbies take up the prime time, and you often say you're too busy with them when your child wants your attention, they'll learn a lot sooner than you think that these things are for you higher priorities than they are. Don't let that happen! It takes constant vigilance. If you feel maybe too much water has already gone under the bridge and your children are getting older, then just begin asking questions. It is never too late. Yes, it's hard! Neither of us had any such close, warm relationships with any of our parents or siblings. We have had a hard time coming to grips with this. By God's grace our children are willing and wanting close relations, so as Craig especially began to turn his heart to the children, their hearts began to turn to him. (Malachi 4:6, Luke 1:17) What a joy to have our children wanting to have such a close relationship with us! But it takes work. We believe most children are crying out for better relationships with their parents - and that many times they do this via acts of incredible rebellion and apparent lunacy.....they are dramatic - and desperate - calls for attention. We parents need to do the drawing out, we need to take the initiative.

How can we add all of this to our lives as well as the things mentioned in previous articles! We will just stress out, crash and burn! Well, no, not necessarily. Not if we take a total new look at how we do things.

Our interest in Classical Education led us to the Bluedorns,, authors of Teaching the Trivium. Their definition of Classical for the Christian includes anything that is of good form and lasting value, and which conforms to a Biblical standard within a Biblical worldview. We noticed a difference between them and other Classical enthusiasts. The difference was the way in which they looked at the ancient Classical Greek writings. Many don't conform to a Biblical standard within a Biblical worldview; that is, they're too pagan, too vile and too perverted for mixed company, let alone our children. The Bluedorn's perspective led us to investigate this further.

Tom Eldredge in Safely Home points out that the first conflict in recorded history was a battle over education. God was building a relationship with Adam and Eve. It was not quick enough for them. They took a short cut to knowledge, sacrificing their relationship with God. Eldredge says: Since then, Satan has never forgotten that man tends to sacrifice relationship for knowledge...We are so efficiency-minded today that we leave little time for things in life that take time: things like relationships, discipling our children and helping others...Our failure in the educational world exists because we have failed to understand the importance of relationships: relationships with God, relationships in the family, and relationships within the local Church.

In many respects, the gymnasium [Classical Greek schooling system] became the antithesis of the biblical and Hebraic approach to education. Where Hebrew education had stressed learning in the context of family relationships, multi-generational training, and the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, Greek education and the establishment of the gymnasium emphasized the development of the child as a creature of the state who finds his identity as an individual, not a member of a family...Traditional Hebrew education with its emphasis on a reverence for God, familial relationships, holiness, humility, and moral development was the very antithesis of the Greek ideal, with its deification of reason and its glorification of the body. The Hellenization of the Jews contributed to cultural downfall and judgment. The hearts of children turned from their parents.

The Greek system only worked by removing children from their parents and handing them over to experts who were responsible for guiding the next generation...Because much of modern education is driven by ancient Greek ideals, the Christian must be especially wary so that he can rebuild his educational philosophy on the one true Rock, Christ Jesus.

We get stuck into home schooling by doing maths, science, history, etc., building knowledge to knowledge, just as Adam and Eve did, so that our children will have a good education. But: we are to build our worldview exclusively on Holy Scripture, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. To the extent that our mature children should study classical culture and writings, it is to identify the many false philosophies and intellectual strongholds which have infected Western civilization, and against which the Christian soldier is to wage war...The extent that Classical Christian education emphasizes important biblical disciplines such as masteries of languages, logic and reasoning, history and the fundamentals of communication skills such as grammar, rhetoric and reading comprehension, we applaud it...The point is that we must have a system of education which is intensely personal, familistic and relationship driven so that virtue is added to faith, and knowledge to virtue, as required by Scripture; a system that trains the believer to 'think God's thoughts after him' through a presuppositionally biblical approach to truth; a system which rejects the idea that either our methods or our philosophy of education are neutral; and a system which emphasizes that the supreme goal of education is not simply to fill the mind with facts, or to get a credential, but to see the child 'Transformed after the image of the God who made him.'(2)

So how do we achieve all this? We've already made a marvellous start by bringing them home to educate them ourselves. As we constantly re-evaluate all things around us, we see that home education is not just for our families and us. It is for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren and for the future edification of the Church. We're just making a start, but we've done some of the hardest work of all: breaking with the pattern of the world to more closely follow Christ ourselves and disciple our children for Him. This is by far the most valuable and far-reaching aspect of our home education. As we re-evaluate our activities, we will find we'll need to assign new priorities to things like spending time with our children and building personal relationships with them. We may find some things high on the priority list at present may get moved down or bumped off altogether; perhaps items such as striving for a top position in academia or earning top dollar and credibility within the business community. We pray the Lord will give us all the vision and the courage to do what will bring Him glory in the raising of our children. "Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments! His descendants will be mighty in the land." - Psalm 112:1-2.


1. Available from the Home Education Foundation

2. Doug Phillips

From Keystone Magazine
March 2004 , Vol. IX No. 2
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