October 3, 2023

Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough – Part 1-3-marriage

Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough – Part 1

By Craig and Barbara Smith

“Most of us are the authors of our own stress. We want everything to be perfect and go according to schedule, everyone in the family to be happy all the time…well, life just doesn’t run that smoothly” Nancy Plent (Unschoolers Network)

Let us look at some things that make life tough for us. What are the symptoms that make or break us.

Symptoms of Burnout

*Marriage difficulties

*Lack of discipline in children

*Lack of Patience

*Overeating or no appetite

*Overreacting to minor issues

*Making irrational decisions

*Unable to make rational decisions


*Feeling overwhelmed

*Lack of confidence


*Feeling frustrated

*Crying easily


*No Motivation

*Physical symptoms



*Blowing up – short fuse

*Blaming others

*Not enough time

*Wanting to throw it all in

Causes of Homeschool Burnout

*Not having regular time alone with God

*Not putting our marriage first


*New baby

*Added responsibility

*New job


*Change in routine

*ERO review

*Over-scheduling activities

*Unrealistic expectations

*Rigid adherence to a curriculum

*Lack of support

*Too many commitments

*Falling into a repetitive pattern

*Forgetting to take care of and take time for ourselves

*Pushing children ahead before they are ready

*Child with a different learning style

*Special needs

*Death in family

*Feeling pressure from family and friends

*Children feeling/thinking they should be at school


Strategies for Avoiding Burnout

*Plan for time alone with God each day

*Dealing with marriage difficulties

*Implementing the 4 D’s of child discipline


*Exercise and diet

*Map out ERO Visits

*Take time off when stress levels are too high

*Be flexible

*Lower your expectations

*Change your teaching style

*Limit scheduled activities

*Get support

*Raise independent learners

*Strategize for meal times

*Fathers taking charge

In this first of three articles we will be dealing with the first two on this strategy list. The second two will be covered in the second article, and the third article will deal with all the rest, Lord willing.

Plan for Time Alone with God Each Day

We need to be meeting with God each day individually and as a family. This is number one. Our thorough devotion to our God, or lack of it, will direct everything else we do. Individual and family devotions are covered brilliantly in many books and tapes. We like keeping it varied yet simple. I (Craig) read the Scriptures, we all sing a couple of hymns or Psalms and we take turns praying.

Helpful Hints for Dealing with Marriage Difficulties

Craig and I were both trained up to have marriage difficulties. I believe that many of you were as well. Let me explain…..

At primary school it began with little crushes on fellow class mates. This was followed by school or Church dances in the local hall even before I went to high school. I used to hate going to them, but my mother took great delight in taking us to them. My mother was never allowed to go to them as a child, so she made sure my sister and I got along to them. Being at Boarding School for four years was no barrier to having boy friends, then after leaving school it was one boyfriend after another until the Lord saved me at 20 years of age. But do emotional entanglements finish when you stop dating or get married if you have been trained in them? We will look at this further a bit later on.

I then got involved with The Navigators, an organisation which was involved in evangelism and personal growth. They were also known as “Navigators, never daters”. In this organisation I was being trained for leadership. So my early life I was trained in emotional entanglements and to be a leader, to be independent, self sufficient and other strong leadership characteristics which are great in themselves but not helpful to my role as a submissive wife.

It took me a long time to recognise all of this. It was also very painful for both Craig and I to understand it and to deal with it. I am still working on the effects of this early training.

Emotional Fornication

The first emotional relationship (whether it is real or in our imaginations, like a secret “crush” on a movie star) we grasp with all our being, we give everything emotionally to it. We don’t hold back. This is exactly what God intended for our first emotional relationship, only He planned it for when we get married, not as adolescents. Then something happens to break up this first emotional relationship. Oh, the pain and heartache, just like all those early 1960s rock ‘n’ roll songs told us about. So when we give ourselves to the next one, we hold back a little. We have been hurt, so we keep a little of ourselves for protection. Then as we go to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc., etc., etc., relationship, we give less and less of our emotional selves each time. The odd thing is, a common pattern of such behaviour is to become increasingly more physically involved each time, leading to physical as well as emotional fornication.

When we finally get married after a number of these broken relationships, we are only holding onto our spouse by the emotional finger tips. Along comes the first argument and it is just so easy to let go. I was talking to a friend’s sister recently. I explained all this to her, and she said that in her current relationship she was holding her arms across her chest and leaning backwards with her emotions. How many of us are doing this in our marriages and don’t even recognise it and can’t break from it? We know we are in trouble but cannot figure it out and don’t know what to do.

Well, praise God, Craig and I are now seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel for us. We did not know what to do, but thankfully Craig made an appointment with a minister in our church denomination who is a good friend and who we really respect. We knew he would treat us with boxing gloves and / or brass knuckles as needed rather than with velvety soft kid gloves. He got us reading two books that began to change our lives: Reforming Marriage by Douglas Wilson and The Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson.1 From these I realised that I needed to bring God more into our marriage and into my reactions. Driving a stake into the ground, I determined that my sole purpose on earth is to please God. So when I came to a hard place in our marriage, instead of reacting away from Craig, I needed to react toward him in a way that would be pleasing, conciliatory instead of reactionary. But it was too hard, too hurtful, too painful for there were too many things in the way after many years of wrong reactions. So I just could not do it.

From reading The Fruit of Her Hands, I was challenged to react to Craig not for Craig’s sake but to please God. And do you know what happened? As I reacted positively to Craig, he reacted positively back to me, which made it easier for me to react positively back to Craig. His Needs; Her Needs

So it began to make a difference in our marriage. But we still had plenty of difficulties. Then we began reading His Needs Her Needs by Willard F. Harley Jnr.2 This book is amazing! We are reading it together, and after reading the first three chapters, we saw our marriage do a complete turn around. It was unbelievably instant. It wasn’t easy at first, as we faced the need to read this book together, but once we got into it and both wanted to work on it, all things came together for us. Harley begins talking about the fact that we each have five basic needs.

“The man’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:

1. Sexual fulfillment

2. Recreational companionship

3. An attractive spouse

4. Domestic support

5. Admiration

The woman’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:

1. Affection

2. Conversation

3. Honesty and openness

4. Financial support

5. Family commitment

These basic needs may not apply equally to everyone. Harley says that this disparity between men and women in regard to the priority of these ten needs makes it difficult for the two sexes to empathise with each other. “Why,” each asks the other, “are these five things so important to you? None of them strikes me as so vital that I couldn’t get along without them, at least for awhile. What’s the matter with you?”

“Because of this lack of understanding, the couple unknowingly works at cross-purposes, each trying to fulfill the needs he or she feels, not the needs the mate feels. So wives often shower their husbands with affection because they appreciate it and want it so much themselves. Conversely, husbands smother their wives with sexual advances, because sex is one of their most pressing needs. Each becomes confused when at best their mate responds with mild pleasure and at worst becomes annoyed, irritated, or frigid.”

“This sort of behaviour – in which one spouse gives the other something he or she really doesn’t need that badly – becomes self-defeating and destructive. Because the priorities of men’s needs are different than the priority of women’s needs, each partner must take the time to discover and recognise the other’s most important needs: those with the highest priority. Amazingly, many people think they can do this simply through intuition, but I’m convinced it can only happen as a result of clear communication and effective training.”

“In numerous counselling situations I have found men incredibly inept in regard to showing their wives affection. With few exceptions these men complain bitterly about ‘not enough sex.’ Meanwhile, their wives, who don’t really understand how to have a fulfilling sexual relationship or how to enjoy making love, complain, ‘All he wants is my body; he never just wants to be affectionate.’ The frustration that results on both sides can easily lead to an affair and possible divorce. It need not be! Let me show you why.”

Harley says marital breakups occur when one or both partners lack the skills or awareness to meet each others’ needs. “I want to show you how to affair-proof your marriage by building a relationship that sustains romance and increases intimacy and closeness year after year.”

The Love Bank

The thing that really helped me to understand myself and our marriage was when Harley said, “Figuratively speaking, I believe each of us has a Love Bank. It contains many different accounts, one for each person we know. Each person either makes deposits or withdrawals whenever we interact with him or her. Pleasurable interactions cause deposits, and painful interactions cause withdrawals.”

“As life goes on, the accounts in my Love Bank fluctuate. Some of my acquaintances build sizable deposits. Others remain in the black, but have small balances, perhaps because of fewer interactions with me…Two love Banks constantly operate in marriage: his and hers”.

So the question is: who is filling our Love Bank? Oh, to have never been trained in emotional detachments before we were married! Oh, to train our daughters and sons to be emotionally attached to their fathers and mothers until marriage then have their first attachment to their spouse!

Joshua Harris in his book I Kissed Dating Good-bye3 mentioned how a girl Anna had a dream of when she walked down the aisle to David. As she took his hand, one by one all these other girls stood and came forward to stand on the other side of him. She felt betrayed. These were all the girls that David had dated. He had given each one a bit of his heart. They all came into his marriage even though they meant nothing to him now. She thought about it and realised that there was also a line of men standing next to her! She wondered, “How many times have I given my heart away in short-term relationships? Will I have anything left to give my husband?”

Anna and David had many people filling their Love Banks. Those old Love Bank accounts remain high because those who made the deposits are not doing anything to cause withdrawals. Once we have been married for a while and have a few children, if we are not constantly working on keeping our spouse’s Love Bank account balance high, there will be lots of withdrawals, possibly more withdrawals than deposits. Consequently the Love Bank balance of our spouse can actually get lower than the balance of those with whom we had previous relationships. It can also get lower than new relationships that come into our lives.

Before marriage, we had been trained in going into and out of emotional relationships. Do you think this behaviour pattern just stops because we get married? Not unless we work hard to stop it. So when the difficulties come and our spouse is making more withdrawals than deposits in our Love Bank, and we find ourselves in a negative balance with our spouse, it could happen, if we don’t fight against it, that we are back into previous or new emotional relationships, “usually work mates or the spouse of good friends” according to Harley. We experience what Paul describes in Romans 7:15-25: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” There are plenty of Christians who have done what they hate: broken their marriage vows of faithfulness simply because they weren’t watching their marriage’s Love Bank balances.

We need to seek God and the sanctifying power of His in-dwelling Holy Spirit through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ so that we can be delivered from this body of death and can serve the law of God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We need to work hard at being pure in all areas: intellectually and emotionally as well as spiritually and sexually. This is especially true of those who have been trained in the worldly ways of emotional fornication in their earlier years. But if we are filling our spouse’s Love Bank and our spouse is filling our Love Bank, then it will be so much easier to be pure in all areas. Loving your spouse, striving to meet his or her needs, is a great investment in more ways than one!

So Craig and I are working now on filling each other’s Love Banks. The aim is to keep it as full as possible so that we can break away from the habits and behaviours which make emotional withdrawals. We need to finish reading His Needs, Her Needs together, and then we want to read together The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman4 so that we can learn to better meet each others needs.

This has not been easy to share with you. We are all walking different roads with our marriages. This information will not be helpful for some who have not been trained in the way we were. But others of you will be struggling with these same issues and not know how to break out of it. This was written for you. No matter where we are in our marriages, I believe Harley when he says, “The husband and wife who commit themselves to meet each other’s needs will lay a foundation for lifelong happiness in a marriage that is deeper and more satisfying than they ever dreamed possible.” If the writing of this article helps to bring this about for you then it will have all been worth it.


1 Reforming Marriage and The Fruit of Her Hands are available from Geneva Books, Wibo and Lisa de Jonge, 13 Tararua St., Upper Hutt, ph. (04) 527-0565, wibo.lisa@actrix.co.nz.

2. You can often pick up His Needs, Her Needs from a second hand book shop or from Geneva Books.

3. I Kissed Dating Goodbye is available in all Christian Book Shops including Geneva Books.

4. The Five Love Languages is available in all Christian Book Shops including Geneva Books.

From Keystone Magazine

November 2002, Vol. VIII No. 6

P O Box 9064

Palmerston North

Phone: (06) 357-4399

Fax: (06) 357-4389

email: barbara@hef.org.nz



Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough – Part 2

by Craig and Barbara Smith

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the positive feedback from Part 1 of this article. We have never had so much feedback on an article we have written before. Because of that and realising that this is an area of real need, we thought that we would extend this series out a bit. So this article will be dealing with marriage again.

(If you have not read Part 1 that was in the November copy of Keystone, then please contact us for a copy of it as this Part 2 will make more sense after reading Part 1.)

When we have had marriage difficulties, we have to work even harder on our marriages. Some one wrote to us, “Really appreciated the November issue of Keystone. Thank you for your honesty and encouragement to others in your article on Burnout. Your honesty has been a blessing and a great benefit to us.”

I want to be honest with you again and say that it has not been easy. I said in Part 1, “But we still had difficulties and had difficulty trying to work it out until we began reading His Needs Her Needs by Willard F. Harley Jnr. This book is amazing! We are reading it together, and after reading the first three chapters, we saw our marriage do a complete turn around. It was unbelievably instant. It wasn’t easy at first, as we faced the need to read this book together, but once we got into it and both wanted to work on it, all things came together for us.”

There was an immediate turn around. This happened in our minds and actions towards each other, not that we suddenly were head over heals in love and lived happily ever after. There was quite a struggle to overcome the fear of being hurt again by both of us. We struggled with the need to come together to work on this.

So first we made a clinical commitment to each other. Our love actions towards each other were clinical. We both knew that they were clinical: you know, doing nice things to each other because the Bible and the book said we should more than because we suddenly had this spontaneous, romantic desire to. We neither of us had it in ourselves for it to be otherwise. We were doing what we knew was right to be doing for the other. We thought it would come across as really fake and put-on, which made us hesitate to do anything at all, which would only leave us back where we started: doing nothing. But you know what? The emotions and feelings followed the actions! It was unbelievable when we knew each other was acting clinically towards each other that other good feelings could come out of it. So when Craig took my hand, or put his arm around me, or whispered sweet nothings to me, my heart responded positively to him. It made me want to meet a need of his.

Many of us are probably like this next person who wrote to us:

“I just thought I’d write and thank you for your input into my life with your magazine and your talks at homeschool conventions. I guess you’d be about five years ahead of us in the homeschool world – we benefited from you pioneering….But I particularly wanted to thank you for sharing your lives in ‘Over a Cuppa’. It has encouraged me to think that things could change for the better. I think I’d decided just to accept the good points of our marriage and thank God for them and leave my disappointments over unmet expectations with Him also. But perhaps growth is still possible! I had chucked in ‘marriage books’ a while back because I felt they just made one discontented! But if you are still growing and learning at your age (which is probably similar to ours) and stage, I feel encouraged! Thanks for your openness.”

Merely accepting the good points of our marriage and leaving the disappointments with Him is also what many of us do. This is the way so many of us are living out our married lives. We gel together as husband and wife well in some areas and not in others. We are meeting some of the needs of our spouses but not all of the needs. We settle for this half-way situation because it is too hard to do anything else. We are tired of the past hurts, so we accept the current situation and don’t work at it anymore.

Willard F. Harley says in the book His Need Her Needs, “Every couple has the choice to let unmet needs hamper or even ruin their relationship, or they can decide to preserve their marriage. Limping along in disappointment and bittersweet frustration doesn’t do any better. A mature coming together to meet each other’s needs is always the best solution.”

“Marital conflict is created one of two ways. (1) Couples fail to make each other happy, or (2) couples make each other unhappy. In the first case, couples are frustrated because their needs are not being met. In the second case, they’re deliberately hurting each other. I call the first cause of conflict failure to care and the second, failure to protect.

“The [legitimate] needs are so strong that when they’re not met in marriage, people are tempted to go outside marriage to satisfy them…. But aside from the risk of an affair, important emotional needs should be met for the sake of care itself. Marriage is a very special relationship. Promises are made to allow a spouse the exclusive right to meet some of these important needs. When they are unmet, that is unfair to the spouse who must go through life without ethical alternatives.”

“Couples that find their needs unmet often become thoughtless and inconsiderate. When that happens, marriages slide into ugly and destructive scenes. The failure to meet these needs is often unintentional, but reaction to unmet needs develops in intentional harm. That often leads to unbearable pain and, ultimately, divorce.”

Harley goes on to say, “In or outside marriage, most people resent denunciations, criticism, or corrections. If others tell us we have made a mistake, we often try to justify our failure or cast blame elsewhere.”

“On the other hand, if someone we care for explains that he or she would like us to meet a personal need, we are usually willing to help. As long as we are not cirticized, we can willingly accommodate others with some change in our behavior.”

“Successful marriages require skill – skill in caring for the one you promised to cherish throughout life. Good intentions are not enough.”

Let’s look at these needs from His Needs Her Needs again. The husband’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:

Sexual fulfillment

Recreational companionship

An attractive spouse

Domestic support


The wife’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:



Honesty and openness

Financial support

Family commitment

So we settle for our spouse meeting some of these needs of ours and being resigned to never having other needs met. Disappointment and bitterness can play on our minds and hearts at this stage. And we are vaguely aware that we let our spouses down in some areas, that we’re not meeting their needs in one way or another, but just leave it in the too-hard basket. We may flirt with someone who somehow seems to be meeting a long-unmet need. In the worst case, even Christians have fallen into having an affair. Those who do end up in an affair usually find that this liaison only meets one of their needs! Suddenly they realise more of their needs were being faithfully met by their spouse than they realised. This new liaison may meet one need that was wanting, but it doesn’t come close to what they just threw away. So let’s learn from this horrible situation and look at our marriages: which needs of our spouses are we meeting and which ones do we need to work at meeting?

The needs of ours that our spouses are meeting will be filling their Love Bank with us. The needs that are being neglected will be causing withdrawals in that Love Bank. So as we work on these unmet needs, we should see less withdrawals. This didn’t happen over night for Craig and I. In fact we are still having to work on this. We have habits that are hard to break. Especially when we get busy we fall back into our old ways. Because we now want to have a good marriage does not by itself make it a good marriage. Effort is required. We need the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) operating in our lives to help us to make our marriage be the best it can be.

“I just wanted to write and encourage Barbara. Having received my Keystone today, I was reading the article she wrote on Helpful Hints for Dealing with Marriage Difficulties. _______and I have gone through a very similar thing. Having been married now for 16 years, we have struggled most of that time. We did have other relationships before we got married, but I attributed a lot of it to the fact that I came from a ‘broken home’. My parents split up when I was 12. I didn’t have a Christian upbringing either, my husband did but he was adopted – which had issues he had to deal with also. The Lord has also been teaching us, and we have read the books you have suggested, but it is still a struggle. I believe the marriage is the foundation to the family, so if the enemy can disrupt that he will. Our son left home this week, but I feel a large part of it was because WE couldn’t get our act together!! Matt 12:25 says, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided itself will not stand’. And verse 29 says, ‘How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.’ And as Malachi 2:15 says, ‘Has not the Lord made them one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.’ And my favourite scripture Proverbs 14:1 which I got at an Above Rubies camp a couple of years ago: ‘The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.’ Yet this is what I seem to do all the time. It seems knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. Also if the husband isn’t doing his part. But we’re only responsible for ourselves. Sometimes I moan because I always seem to be the one trying to work things out, but I think females tend to be like that, and the Lord encouraged me to do it as ‘Unto Him’. This week I’ve been reading Spiritual Mismatch by Lee and Leslie Storbel. As 1 Peter 3 says – they’ll be won over without a word. It’s like we can change but we can’t force them too. I’m having to learn GRACE. While we were yet sinners Jesus died for us. Therefore we have to die to ourselves. And I’m learning the definition of love probably doesn’t even mean what we think it means…I have such a passion for this subject. I could go on all day, but just to encourage you, we’re not there yet either, but I feel it’s a real key for restoration in the whole family. And you’re brave being so transparent about it, I hope a lot of others will be encouraged as I was.”

I wanted this letter included because too often our children leave home as soon as they can because of the undercurrents in our homes. We not only have a responsibility to our spouses to make our marriage as good as it can be but also to our children. You may have often heard it said that the best thing we can be doing for our children is to love our spouses as God intended us to. Unhappy children who give us nothing but trouble and who can’t wait to leave home are the unhappy fallout of inattention to this duty to love our spouses as God would have us do.

“Thanks, Barbara, for your openness and humility in sharing the way you have about your marriage – may God bless you RICHLY, and I’m sure He’ll use it to bless many others (us included).”

And may God richly bless us all as we seek to be obedient to Him in our desire to please Him in our marriages. Let us remember to continue to meet the needs of our spouses we are already meeting well. Then work at improving how we meet other needs. We do these things, as difficult as they sometimes are, for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of our marriages, for the sake of our children….but knowing that we personally also benefit by enjoying the fruit of a more peaceful, enjoyable and satisfying marriage partner from now on!

From Keystone Magazine

January 2003, Vol. IX No. 1

P O Box 9064

Palmerston North

Phone: (06) 357-4399

Fax: (06) 357-4389

email: barbara@hef.org.nz



Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough – Part 3

by Craig and Barbara Smith

We were horrified to discover, after the last issue of Keystone was printed, that the last two lines of Part 2’s article were chopped off! The final paragraph should have read:

“And may God richly bless us all as we seek to be obedient to Him in our desire to please Him in our marriages. Let us remember to continue to meet the needs of our spouses we are already meeting well. Then work at improving how we meet other needs. We do these things, as difficult as they sometimes are, for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of our marriages, for the sake of our children….but knowing that we personally also benefit by enjoying the fruit of a more peaceful, enjoyable and satisfying marriage partner from now on!”

This is a tall order. This is something that we need to be continually working at. We will never get to the point where we will be able to just coast along: something is always changing, and we can let things change by themselves (the doctrine of original sin and the second law of thermal dynamics both say the change will be downhill) or we can work with the changes in an effort to ensure the overall effect is beneficial. The lists and books that we have mentioned in these and other articles are merely tools for us to use. None can claim to be exhaustive lists, fool-proof formulas for success or items that will necessarily suit our current needs. They are tools for us to use to help get us onto a better track, to help us come to grips with Biblical principles that we need to be applying to our lives. Sometimes people try to use books or lists of ideas as a quick fix for marriage difficulties. It doesn’t work like that. There are no quick fix methods (in this quick fix age) for getting our marriages back on track once we get stuck in a briar patch of thorny problems. We also believe that all marriages have difficulties of some sort. Good marriages call for hard work and a need to be doing what we know is right. We two just want to mention again that the most difficult part for us getting on track again with our marriage was the decision we made together to do so.

Craig will now mention what he has been sharing at workshops about the clinical part of getting our marriage on track again. For us this was a key to begin communicating again……

We’d tried talking about the difficulties, but always went round and round in circles. This is what happens when neither is willing to admit to their failures, but is more concerned with finding fault with the other. This is especially hard for me (Craig), for in the final analysis I am the one to carry the full responsibility as head of the household, head of the marriage. It was imperative to find someone we could trust, a godly man of Biblical wisdom and maturity, to whom we could bring our difficulties, laying them on the table for him to see and give counsel, a man unafraid of offending us by telling us the truth! The description I used at the time was someone who would use a two-by-four to whack us between the eyes, who would pull out his six-shooters and give us both barrels, who would not handle us with velvet gloves for we are not very good at taking hints, but need it spelled out in no uncertain terms. Our counselor did exactly that: told us what terrible sinners we were against God and each other, how we had been defrauding one another in our attitudes, how we had some serious confessions to make to one another and to God, and how I especially had better start shouldering my responsibilities, taking charge and start working on some solutions with Barbara who had better be a lot more cooperative.

The first challenge was to read a book together. And discuss it. And work out applications, that is, things we were going to start doing that we hadn’t been doing. Our initial list has on it signs of affection which I (Craig) needed to start performing, even in public: holding hands, giving a hug, buying flowers. “Give me a break!” I said. These things will now seem cold and clinical because each of us will know I’m doing it only because the book suggested it; these acts won’t be “spontaneous” or “from the heart” and therefore not properly valid. They’ll be fake tokens of affection, not real ones.

Well, the fact is, just as Naaman’s servant in II Kings 5 convinced Naaman that he had nothing to lose from doing something so simple as dipping seven times into the Jordan River to fix his problem, I decided holding hands wasn’t so hard to do. The truth is, I really wanted to hold hands like we used to do when courting. But now things were different, I said to myself, and went through the arm-chair psychologist routine for a bit. Look, just forget all the analysis stuff; it’s all just an attempt to make excuses anyway. Just hold her hand, you big oaf!

The act of showing such signs of affection, even after they’d long been dropped, even when they’d probably appear to be mere clinical actions, demonstrates a commitment to making things better, a commitment to Barbara, a commitment to changing my habits and routines for her sake. I tell you what, there is more meaning in our holding hands now, more significance, than there ever was 25 years ago in our courting days. And yet, I’m aware that I’m talking about some fairly basic things here, Philippians 2:3 kind of stuff. But it is vital to be on top of this if we are ever to be immersed in the lifestyle of Ephesians 5:21-33 to which we have been called.

There will always be work needed in our marriages, especially if we were not trained in purity, particularly emotional purity. The Bible’s standard for our emotional purity is, first, to be so totally committed to our spouses that our marriages each reflect the relationship of Christ to His church. This is a unique union which should be obvious to all onlookers as a one-of-a-kind relationship. Second, the Bible says this about our relation to all others outside our family: “Exhort [older men] as you would a father; treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity” (I Timothy 5:1-2). Don’t flirt with anyone apart from your spouse in your mind or with your eyelashes or with your words or with physical touch or closeness. We need to be continually working towards purity and emotional purity in our marriages. And that includes how we effect the emotional purity of others.

We as parents need to be working at training our children in purity, emotional as well as sexual. We are training our children in something, either in purity in all of their relationships or that flirting to some degree is ok. So how far is ok? Even to ask the question shows we have erred: purity is in the exact opposite direction. We counsel our children, “Pay attention to all, show intention toward none.” Like many of you I (Barbara) was trained to be in the dating scene from an early age – it really did affect me. Consequently I now really struggle to be emotionally pure every day. Most days I get the victory now, but it has been a struggle for me over the years. If we train our children from a young age in purity, then, by God’s grace, they should not have the same struggles in their marriages that many of us have. Even though we fail in this area at times, we must see the need to be training our children in all purity. It is worth the struggle to be pure and to train our children to be pure. I know this is not a popular message in these days of excessive freedom in forming relationships, independence in how youth spend their time, the fashions they follow, independence in transport and finance, etc. But as Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Craig and I want to be found by God to be seeking Him in all areas of our lives, and we want this for our children.

II Corinthians 3:18, Philippians 2:12-13, I Corinthians 9:4-27, Philippians 3:12-16 and other passages mean our sanctification and maturity in Christ, becoming the kind of husbands, wives and parents we want to be, is a constant struggle. The closer we get to Him the more faults we’ll see in ourselves, the more impure we will realise we are. This is depressing. Yet here is a proper, a balanced, a Biblical self-image, one that is totally at odds with the popular notion that people need to have positive self-esteem and always feel good about themselves. No, we need to know we are weak and faulty sinners, that it is the grace of God alone that carries us on, allowing us to see that even while we are truly becoming more and more sanctified, and that a part of that sanctification is perceiving that the true gulf between our righteousness and His is getting wider all the time, even so, His grace allows us to see more of the true extent of His love and commitment toward us in Christ! When we are weak, then we are strong; let him who boasts, boast in the Lord, not in his journey to discover a positive self image!

Another key to having a fulfilling marriage is for us to be content in our marriages. Paul says in Philippians 4:11b “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am”. For some of us it is taking longer than others to learn to be content. Contentment doesn’t just happen when we marry. We should have learned to be content in God before we married. If we did not, then we may tend to look towards our spouse as the source of contentment, something our spouses cannot be; only God can be that source of unfailing contentment, one that never lets you down or disappoints.

Norm Wakefield stated in his book, Equipped to Love, “Whenever someone looks to anything or anyone rather than God as the source of all things, he commits the sin of idolatry. This may sound strange, but it’s true. Here is a good definition of idolatry: looking to any person, object or idea to supply what only God can supply.” Heather Paulsen says in her book , Emotional Purity (see back cover), “We must examine things in our lives that may be idols. Could it be the idea of marriage? Or could it be the ‘friend’ you have?…..When discontentment is felt in life, when one does not find true contentment with God alone, problems can easily occur. Ask God to point out areas in your life where you are not content, then ask Him to help you be satisfied with His plan. He will begin to reveal areas where you are not fully in His will. Once this lesson is learned, you may need to lean on God ‘the Educator’ to continue to keep you reminded of His instructions. If you are married, where do you find your satisfaction? Are you longing for your spouse to fill your empty heart? It will never happen. Only God can fill this hole in your heart. He designed it that way. Your husband has not been created to make you happy. Your wife has not been created to satisfy you always. Look to God to fill this area of your life. Trust Him to take care of your marriage. Be content with where you are in life. As difficult as marriage can be, continue to draw near to God. God can use another person, your mate perhaps, to contribute to your happiness and satisfaction, but remember it ultimately comes from God and He deserves the glory.”

I Timothy 4:6b-7: “Train yourself in godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.” We need to be training ourselves in godliness and learning to find contentment in Christ Who will give us contentment in our marriages.

All this training and learning starts to sound like hard work. But look at it from different angles at the same time. Why not decide – the two of you together – that you could have the best marriage anyone around you has ever seen? Why not decide that as a couple? Team up to mutually decide to have a marriage that is going to set a benchmark for Biblical conformity, attract attention, make your children the happiest and most secure little ones around – and incidentally, a marriage that is going to thrill you down to your socks as well! It is a simple, fairly well-defined, identifiable goal. And if we don’t get

In Church last night I was challenged by the verses in Hebrews 12:1-3: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”

I was thinking of this in relation to our marriages. “Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us from keeping our marriages in all purity and keeps us from having good marriages. Let us run with endurance the race (working on our marriages) that is set before us. We need to look unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith (it is only as we seek to please Him that we can do it; we are not pure as He is pure; we do not suffer as He suffered), who for the joy set before Him endured the cross (nothing in our marriages can compare with that), despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (to be there with Him being our goal

Many of us have grown weary and have lost heart. Let this be a challenge for us not to grow weary and lose heart any longer but to do as we are told in Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” It is dying to ourselves, denying ourselves as we seek the Lord Jesus Christ, as we fix our eyes on Him, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, that we are able to do it. As we fix our eyes on Him, we can look forward to the joys of a fulfilling marriage and the ultimate fulfillment of meeting with Him, in godliness and contentment, at the end of our days.


From Keystone Magazine

March 2003, Vol. IX No. 2

P O Box 9064

Palmerston North

Phone: (06) 357-4399

Fax: (06) 357-4389

email: barbara@hef.org.nz

Training Our Children to Worship

Training Our Children to Worship

Posted in Keystone Magazine Articles

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

by Craig & Barbara Smith

This verse is a promise for us to claim. It is not a “probability”, that our children “might” not depart from the faith when they get older: it says they “will not depart from it.” Neither is it a verse to comfort us because our children have gone astray, saying that one day they will come back, as in: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will come back to it.”

No, if we train up our children in the way they are to go (the condition God lays on us before He will fulfil His promise), then God promises that they will not depart from it, even when the child is old! When we were expecting Genevieve (22 now), we went to Parent Centre as we prepared for her birth. The leader there made a comment that has influenced us ever since. She said, “Your children will grow up in spite of you.” We looked at each other and decided right there and then that we did not want our children growing up in spite of us. The comment reflected a nonChristian worldview wherein you just sort of take what comes and hope for the best. No, we would be involved a great deal in the training of our children. We would claim God’s promise in Proverbs 22:6.

As this promise indicates, we need to be training up our children in every area of their lives. Training them implies discipline and methodology, goals and objective standards. This needs to take place in every area, not just in some and hoping they’ll “turn out” (a baking term used in kitchens) ok in the other areas. And among all the areas of training, what greater one exists than training children in the worship of God? It is an activity with everlasting consequences. It is to be our all consuming vocation in this life as well as in the life to come. Psalm 111:10 tells us, “His praise endures forever.” Revelation 4:8-11 indicates that in heaven they do not cease to sing, praise and worship God, for ever and ever, Amen!

God Values the Praise of Children

We know this from passages like Matthew 19:13-15 or Mark 10:13-16, but we often have quite a sanitised and idealistic picture of Jesus blessing the little children, all standing orderly before Him, each in his or her own national costume….why the disciples would object to this is somewhat problematic, but we like the scenario nevertheless. Karl A. Hubenthal in Children & Worship says that this scene was possibly far from tranquil. These women and children may have walked a long way. The children were probably hungry, thirsty, tired, needing a change, one or two infants even screaming their lungs out. Yes, this raises implications for an orderly and reverent church service, which is why older folks need to be patient with parents as they train their children to worship. Maybe they could reserve the pews at the back or near the door especially for such families. Some churches have a sound-proofed room with speakers and a large window so little ones in training and their parents can still be part of the worship without unduly distracting others.

The Challenge of Worship

Think about it for a moment….exactly how are we training our children when it comes to worship? “Ssssshhhhh!!!! Be still!!!!” For many, that about sums it up. It perfectly describes the training Craig had. And Barbara hardly went to church. So we two are only just now starting to understand what it means to train our children to worship. Robbie Castleman’s book Parenting in the Pew showed us the vast difference between “going to church” and “going to worship”. When children are not trained to worship, “going to church” is about your only option. Castleman writes, “For many parents, sixty minutes in a pew with a squirmy toddler or a sulky teen can seem like forever! Worship can be the farthest thing from our minds when children are distracting.”

Wasn’t it Loyola of the Jesuits who said, “Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man”? James Dobson in Dr Dobson Answers Your Questions also says that these first seven years are “prime time” for accomplishing the most important aspects of child training. We Christians must be doing something wrong in our training to worship, for we know exactly what Robbie Castleman means when she mentions squirmy toddlers and sulky teens. And haven’t most of us seen the heartache of teens who just plain refuse to come to church anymore? Sunday morning with children in the pew can be the longest hour of the week, or it can provide the very best preparation for eternal joy. To ensure it is the latter, we must actively train our children to worship, not just lessen the stress of that hour in the pew.

Castleman says, “Worship is not a refueling to get us through another week. Worship is not a system of traditions built up over many years of congregational life until everyone feels comfortable. Worship is not a time to unwind, relax, tune out or take a mental vacation. Worship is not an hour of Christian entertainment. It is not what makes us good people, faithful Christians or successful parents. Worship is the surrender of our souls to a God who is jealous for our attention, time and love. Worship is a challenge. With children it is a bigger challenge.”

We need to get our thinking right. Is going to worship primarily for our benefit or God’s? Romans 12:1 says, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” or “your reasonable service.” Worship is our reasonable service….that’s why it is called a worship service. But as living sacrifices, everything we do is to be an act of worship, our vocation being our calling from God, whether we eat or whether we drink, we are to do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). Castleman says, “Worship is the exercise of our souls in blessing God. In the Pslams we read or sing, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul!’ However, our chief concern is usually ‘Bless my soul, O Lord!’” We need to change this kind of thinking. Worship is for God’s glory, not our benefit!

It is a true saying that today people worship their work, work at their play and play at their worship. Christians, we need to work at our worship. With children we will need to work harder. It is just like excelling at anything, says Castleman. “Great baseball players are not made in the bleachers. Ballet dancing is not learned by remote control. Children learn to worship by worshiping – through participation, practice and patience.”

We parents must personally be full of anticipation before worship and full of joy and celebration and reverence and holy fear during worship. Then our children can learn from our example. We do not want to be self-consciously wondering what others are thinking of the children’s behaviour nor full of resentment and frustration at having to control these unruly children when, before they were born, we could look forward to an hour of peace and quiet in the pew. Such activities of the mind are called “stinking thinking”, and are not a pleasant odour to bring before the altar of God. We cannot expect our children to worship, we cannot train them to do so, if we are having difficulty worshipping ourselves. Work at it!

Too many adults are simply being quiet in church, just as they were taught, but tragically remaining unmoved by the holy presence of God….and passing that on to their children. Training children to worship while there in the pew can help parents pay more attention to the worship service as well. Pastors of even the quietest congregations love it when to the rhetorical questions of Isaiah 6:8, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”, a wee five year old will answer, “I’ll go if mum will let me!” The little one was paying attention as well keen to be involved. Active listening may include a judiciously placed and clearly audible, “Amen!” in response to a point made by the preacher, as well as the usual positive body language and facial expressions.

Work at Our Worship

Though “worship” in the dictionary follows “worn-out”, “worry” and “worse”, let not your Sunday morning follow a similar sequence. The noticeable drop-out rate of older children is clear evidence that we need to do more than just get them to the church on time. Let us follow the fourth commandment: “Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.”

During the week

*Talk about preparations for worship

*Memorise and review scripture relating to the sermon

*Memorise the creeds, 10 commandments, prayers, etc.

*Teach children world geography and current events so they’ll recognise those items during the congregational prayers.

*Use family devotions as a time of training for worship (more on this later)

*Teach youth the meanings behind Psalms and hymns

*Plan big parties for Friday nights rather than for Saturday nights.


*Clean our homes

*Cook for Sunday

*Prepare clothes for Sunday (1 Samuel 16:7)

*Dress for worshipping God, not impressing others

*Wear comfortable clothes that will not be a distraction

*Wear modest clothes that will not be a distraction

*Prepare the tithes and offerings of yourself and your children. Train the children to be cheerful givers of their own money — 10% of $1.00 earned is important to God

*Prepare attitudes for Sunday – build a joyous expectation for worship

*Have an early night

Sunday morning

*Don’t sleep in, causing Sunday morning to be rushed

*Have Psalms and hymns playing in the back-ground

*Have a good breakfast so children are not hungry during Church

*Make something special for breakfast

*Restrict liquid so children won’t need to visit the toilet during service

*Allow plenty of time to arrive and settle in at Church unrushed

*Ensure conversation in the car leads into the worship of God

*Before going into worship take children to the toilet

During Worship Service

*Family sit together

*Older women and older childless couples can help younger families in training by temporarily having certain children sit with them

*Children sitting with other children doesn’t help with training but only winds them all up.

*Aim to have no toys or colour-ins to keep them quiet and occupied. Try starting by making them wait for 10 minutes with no toys or colouring-in, then each Sunday extend the wait time longer until they don’t need these items anymore. Of course you are using the “wait time” to train them to worship.

*No going to the toilet unless there is a medical need.

*Help children and toddlers prepare for worship during the silent confession as well – young children can be quietly guided in this

*Older children can take notes.

*Younger children can draw picture portraits of the sermon, bur watch that it does not turn into doodling.

*Give young readers a list of key words for them to tick each time they hear the words spoken during the sermon.

*Parents work at the follow-through of training the child to worship: — We use our daily devotional time around the table to train the children how to behave as they should in Church. One will have the toddler on his/her knee and whisper, “We are praying now,” and we expect the toddler to pray as well. Use the same forms of discipline around the table as in Church. When the child’s behaviour is unacceptable, it is taken out of the dining room or church, dealt with, and brought straight back into church. Otherwise the child may see misbehaviour as a passport out of worship services, exerting his little will on you.

*Encourage children to sing or hum during singing no matter how young, just as at devotions at home. Make sure you are singing with gusto, according to the mood of the hymn.

*Trace a finger along the words of the hymn while singing – we also point out words the child already knows, and he will sing them while humming the rest.

*Sing church favourites at home so the children learn more quickly and can join in the congregational singing earlier.

*Have children stand up and sit down with the rest of congregation.

*Trace a finger along Bible passages as it is being read.

*Train the children to make the preacher’s prayers their silent prayers. Train them to pray themselves.

*Help the children listen to the sermon. Encourage them to listen by directing their attention to specific things: nudge and point; whisper, “Did you hear that?”, “Remember reading about that last week?” If children have questions during the service, write them down to answer afterwards if they require a long answer.

*Help the children see how the preacher’s point is relevant to them.

*During training time sit near the back or near doors so a quick exit to discipline or whatever is easy.

*Older children can write down their own questions to be answered after Church

After Worship

*Children should stay near parents not running and bumping into older folks.

*Parents’ talk should always be edifying.

*No complaining about the service or other people.

*Practice hospitality by inviting others to lunch.

At Home After Worship

*Watch the talk in the car on the way home from worship – no complaining about the service, minister or people there, but let our talk be of how wonderful it was to be able to worship the Lord with His people.

*Go over the sermon with family and guests at lunch – review the highlights.

*Ask questions. If we expect our children to answer questions on the sermon afterwards, we’ll be surprised at how much they remember and how they begin to enjoy listening to the sermon.

*Visit those prayed about during the service and continue to pray for them as a family. Children will often remember better than we do those who need prayer.

*Do sermon post-mortems. Dr D.M. Lloyd-Jones says in his book Life in the Spirit in Marriage, Home and Work, “What are parents to do? They are to supplement the teaching of the church, and they are to apply the teaching of the church. So little can be done in a sermon. It has to be applied, to be explained, to be extended, to be supplemented. That is where the parents play their part.”

They Don’t Understand the Sermon

JC Ryle in The Duties of Parents says,What I like to see is a whole family sitting together, old and young, side by side, – men, women, and children, serving God according to their households.” There’s that idea again of corporate worship being a service rendered to God, rather than something we attend to get something out of. He answers the objection often raised that little ones cannot understand the sermon by showing how neither Samuel nor the Apostles seemed to understand, yet they did their duty (I Samuel 3:7, John 12:15).

Do we go to church or do we go to worship? As Castleman says, “God must be real in our experience of faith. He must be known and encountered. We cannot be satisfied with worship that simply fulfills social and religious obligations.” It is clear also that we will not be satisfied with worship that simply fulfills social and religious obligations…..our children will not stick around if that’s all it is.

There are already countless activities specifically for children. But corporate worship is unique. This is where children belong: within the family of God, as one body, worshipping Him. Like home education, there are many wanting to break it up, who insist on special programmes just for children. But remember, worship is to serve God, not to serve children, although of course children’s best interests are served as they perform with you this service of worship.

Christian parents, brothers and sisters in Christ, there is no greater calling in our lives as Christians than to raise up the next generation of faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely within that calling, the most noble, the most necessary, the most foundational task is to ensure our children have been thoroughly trained to properly, earnestly, honestly, from the heart and soul and mind and strength, offer their reasonable service, their spiritual worhip to God the Father Almighty in the name of His only begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

From Keystone Magazine

July 2002, Vol. VIII No. 4

PO Box 9064

Palmerston North

Phone: (06) 357-4399

Fax: (06) 357-4389

Email: mail to: Barbara@hef.org.nz

Webpage: http://www.hef.org.nz

Training Children’s Minds

Training Children’s Minds

Posted in Keystone Magazine Articles

by Barbara Smith

For the first 10 years of our home education, Craig did all the academic stuff. My education was very poor: the NZ state school system, including an expensive girls’ boarding school, did not cater to my kinaesthetic learning style (My parents did all they could to give me a good education, driving for miles every day of my primary school then sacrificing to send me to a good school as a boarder but the school system let me down). So when our situation changed and demanded that I do the teaching, I thought I had to be ahead of them all the time and was frantically trying to study up on every subject. Then I worked out that I probably only needed to be one night ahead. But praise the Lord, I discovered that if I just get in there and learn along side of them, which was the usual situation anyway, my excitement about learning things was contagious! We all enjoy our time a lot more when there is excitement in the air.

I am convinced that, if I can do it, then by God’s grace anyone can do it, and do it well. Ask the Lord to give you a conviction that your unmatched commitment to your children will cause your tutoring/mentoring home education situation to produce superior results. Your home education programme, almost regardless of what it is, has vast advantages over even the most gifted of teachers in a classroom simply because it is you, their mum, doing one-on-one for as long as you like, any way you like, any where you like, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. With such a conviction you will be spilling over with the kind of confidence that stirs up not only your own children but nearly everyone else you engage in conversation to want to know more!(Excitement, enthusiasm, conviction and lastly confidence…those who have heard me speak know I am developing some of these things at least, even if my formal education was no good. And don’t be fooled by this essay: much of the grammar and punctuation are a result of my husband’s editing skills!)

Keep it simple and set yourself up to succeed. Big ambitions and big plans are great, but if they are unrealistic, you will burn yourself out and set yourself up to fail. I’m currently teaching a 15-year-old, a hyper-active 10-year-old and a typical talkative 4-year-old (while the 18-year-old is at polytech fulltime and the two eldest are travelling overseas, all 6 totally home educated).I know this is a piece of cake compared to some of you, so just apply the principles. We always begin with our Number One goal: reading the Bible together and discussing it as a family around the meal table. We also pray and sing Psalms and hymns together. Being the number one priority, Craig takes the lead. We believe that whatever the Dad does with the children is considered by the children to be a bit more important than usual, especially if it is done at the beginning of the day. Since Craig’s office is here at home, we read the Bible and pray after nearly every meal. Sometimes this takes 10 – 15 minutes and other times we have long discussions. (We know of Dads who start work so early each morning that they structure their day the Hebrew way, beginning it at dusk! In that way the Father is still able to lead family worship at the beginning of their day!) If this is all we manage to get done in the day, we don’t worry, for we have at least achieved our Number One goal. Our day was a success!

Next I set out to train the children’s minds in capacity. At school and with some curriculum, children are taught facts for a test. The test comes and goes, and they immediately forget most of what they learned. We need to train our children’s minds to remember important facts long term.One of the most effective ways of doing this is Scripture memory or poemsor maths facts etc . Now I am not talking about the way Scripture is usually taught at Sunday School, learned in order to get the lollie or the sticker and then forgotten. In fact, I am not talking so much about Scripture memory as I am about Scripture review. We want every Scripture our children have ever learned to be firmly remembered, imbedded in their minds forever. It is hard work to learn verses by heart, so why learn them to forget them next week? The key to remembering verses for the rest of their lives is review, review and more review. So this is how we begin nearly every morning after breakfast and chores: reviewing, that is, me hearing them recite their newest verses nearly every day for at least 7 weeks. Then I review those verses only weekly for a few weeks and finally they end up being heard only once a month.

Review goes like this: the child always says the reference, then the verse, then the reference again. The standard is word perfect….near enough is not good enough, especially when we are handling God’s Word. Either the verses or just the references are written on file cards. To keep track of where we are, I have a box with different sections in it. In the front I have two separator cards for the daily review: behind the first are the ones I need to do that day, and behind the second go the review cards once we’ve done them. The next section has 12 separator cards with the months on them, January to December.In the first three monthly sections I have five separator cards: one each for the four weeks of the month behind which I put the verses for once-a-week review and a “monthly” one behind which go the verses for review only once a month. There are several ways this can be set up. The important thing is to set up a system that suits you and works for you. I have a friend who has a system set up under each child’s name, and that works well for her.

Nearly every day we do the daily review. As soon as possible in the week we do the weekly review so that it doesn’t all fall on a Friday or Saturday. Once the weekly review is completed we work on the monthly review and try to do this from the beginning of the month so that the monthly review does not all have to be done during the last couple of days in the month. Today is 18 May and I have just finished Charmagne’s monthly review items for May. Charmagne is 15. But I only finished Alanson’s monthly review items for April last week! Alanson is 18 and a lot harder to catch between his study, work and social commitments.

Children from quite a young age can learn surprisingly large portions of the Bible or quite long poems. When Charmagne was 4 & 5, we were teaching the older children James chapter 1.One day Charmagne began to prompt the older children as they recited it. We asked her if she knew James chapter 1 and got a real surprise when she could say most of the 26 verses with just a little prompting. We had not been working with her on it at all. She had picked it up from listening to the older children every single morning. Ten years on Charmagne can still quote James 1 to me faster than I can read it.

This way of learning can be done individually or as a family. It is more fun as a family and more the Hebrew approach to learning. I especially like this article on Scripture Memory: http://homeschoolblogger.com/kiwismithfamily/371341/.

(18/8/12 We went through a stage of reviewing as a family but I am back again to listening to each child’s verses seperately. I am now listening to the last of my 8 children – they are 14 (boy), 11 (girl) and 6 (girl). We begin the day with family workship at 6:30am. At 7:00am we begin our memory work with reciting together all our new passages/catechisms/maths facts etc. I then listen to the 14 years olds  daily/weekly/monthly verses etc. while the two younger ones listen in (the 11 year old will do the 6 year old’s long hair nicely for me, sometimes they also massage my feet and brush my hair during this time as well.) Once the 14 year old has finished his reciting he goes off to have his Quiet Time, music practice and other things. The 6 year old listens with me to the 11 year as she recites her memory work. It is amazing just how much the 6 year old has picked up just listening to her siblings, so it has been much easier for her to learn her memory work. This can take us up to 2 hours a day.  I have to discipline myself to do this. The reward at the end is breakfast and satisfaction with the progress we are making in memorizing the Bible/catechisms/maths facts etc. )

As part of this review I have other things that we are committing to memory. So these things slot in with the verses. We are learning a simplified catechism for children as well as the Heidelberg Catechism. (A catechism is a summary of Christian doctrine in question and answer form. For a huge list of creeds, confessions and catechisms see http://www.gty.org/~phil/creeds.htm. The boys are learning their math facts which I have written out as flash cards for review during this time. Jedediah (4) has done the “+ 0” facts and is up to 5 + 1 = 6 in the “+ 1” facts. He just loves going through them. Both the boys are learning Latin words and the verb conjugation chants. Jedediah knows that “I love” is “Amo” and can do the “Amo” chant: amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant. I have a card for Jedediah’s alphabet and another for his numbers. Charmagne and Jedediah made up cards with each letter of the alphabet plus a picture or drawing of something beginning with the letter on that card. Now Jedediah also knows most of the sounds because we go over them most days like flash cards. Both Jeremiah (10) and Jedediah are learning the books of the Bible and the Apostles’ Creed. Another project we are planning on is learning the Treaty of Waitangi.

For something a little less formal, I try to read to the boys for about two hours a day. I read to them while they do the dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher), play with Lego, colour in, brush my hair, massage my feet and any other time that is suitable for us. I like to read a series of books or to have a pile of books always handy. If I don’t and I finish a book before they’ve finished the job, I am likely to tell them to carry on with the dishes just this time while I go do something that is really pressing. Next thing I know, a whole week has gone by and I still haven’t gotten around to selecting a new book to read because there just seemed to be all these “really pressing” things come up all the time.

I try to read a wide range of books: biographies, autobiographies, historical fiction, Church history, books on science, nature, musicians, artists, etc. We have a published timeline close by plus others each child is constructing to which we can add dates and events as we read about them.Having these timelines, a globe and maps nearby helps to bring alive the things we are reading about. Craig also tries to read to the children most nights.

The next two most important things for training the children’s minds are the two kinds of narration. I’ll read a passage to the children, and they have to repeat to me everything they heard. I’ll do easy pieces with Jedediah and more difficult ones with Jeremiah. They often try to begin telling me from half way through the story, especially if it is a longer piece. But I make them go back to the beginning, and it is amazing how much they remember when pressed to remember it. This is training them to listen and at least remember and perhaps even comprehend whatever is read to them. We want them to listen attentively whenever the Bible is read, whenever a sermon is preached, and I dare say the skill will come in handy during lectures at university, should they ever go there.

Next I get Jeremiah to read to me, then to narrate back to me what he has just read. This is training him to focus and concentrate on what he reads as he reads it. It will save him countless hours of frustration in the future. I know what it’s like….I have to read and re-read passages over and over, for my mind wanders all over as I was never taught to focus.

All these things are priorities for me, and I work at doing them first on most days. If this is all that I end up doing in a day, I’m really not worried, for I have achieved the important things with the children.But I do like to get more done.

So, if it is a good day, I do some more work with Jeremiah on his phonics. He can read but is not reading for pleasure yet. His mind works faster than his lips, and so he does a fair bit of guessing when he is reading. I am trying to slow him down a little and getting him to work on reading accurately. This year I have begun writing with him. This is the 3rd or 4th time we have started to learn this skill. The previous starts were all disasters, so I simply assumed he was not ready yet. He will do a couple of pages in a hand-writing guide book and has also begun to copy the Bible into a notebook. (Charmagne has also been copying out the Bible for a while, and says it is a really different and interesting way of getting familiar with the Scriptures.) At the moment we are also working on a project covering North American geography, history, music, art, etc.

Dr Moore’s formula has impressed us, so along with the academics we like to focus on work (chores, work ethic) and service to others. With our older children we concentrated mostly on the academics, and the standards around our home suffered because of it. I was swayed by the poem “I’m rocking my baby, the cobwebs can keep”. This is fine if you just have very young children, but I let my older children get away with not doing many chores so that they could focus on the academics. Now I believe that training the young children to do the jobs around the house to a high standard is training them to do their studies later in life to a high standard.

Most chores are considered duties, their proper service to the rest of the family as part of the Smith Family Corporation. They aren’t paid for these, nor do they get pocket money. There are occasional and regular bigger jobs around the house where they can earn money. So when your children want to begin helping around the home at age two or three or four, exploit the opportunity: get them to do a job, any job, and train them to do it always right. If we are sticklers for quality and faithfulness with the older ones, they will often be great teachers of and far more exacting on their younger siblings than we would be! Service outside the family can be part of multi-tasking: if the children bake a cake and take it to some older house-bound person, they can then ask the person what it was like growing up way back then. This is work and service and history all in one.

We have been influenced by the thinking of:

Harvey and Laurie Bluedornhttp://www.triviumpursuit.com . Have a good look at this one, especially at “Ten Things to Do with Your Child Before Age Ten”.

Roland Meighan (University of Nottingham School of Education) in Home-Based Education – not “Does it Work?” but “Why Does it Work so Well?” quotes Alan Thomas’s research: “Families starting out on home-based education who at first adopted formal methods of learning found themselves drawn more and more into less formal learning. Families who started out with informal learning at the outset found themselves drawn into even more informal learning. The methods that both groups grew into had much more in common with the methods of younger children. The sequencing of learning material, the bedrock of learning in school, was seen increasingly as unnecessary and unhelpful.

“Learning to read was a central concern, but parents showed less anxiety when their children showed no inclination to learn at the usual age. Curiously, these children who learned to read relatively late still went on very quickly to read material suitable for their age. Most of the children were voracious readers.

“Thomas stresses that his work is in the early stages and should not be regarded as the last word on the matter. Nevertheless, he is already aware that his research challenges one of the fundamental assumptions of schooling: the almost universally held view that children of school age need to be formally taught if they are to learn. In school this may be the case but at home they can learn just by living.”

Jeff Richardson, Monash Universtiy, Melbourne says, “The evidence shows overwhelmingly that these children perform extremely well, above average, when they re-enter formal education. That appears to be across the board, whether they sat at home and had formal lessons…or whether they were up-a-tree hippies who had no formal learning pattern. On any measure you like, socially or academically, they will do better.”

Diana Waring http://www.dianawaring.com/

Jonothan Lindvall http://www.boldchristianliving.com/

Dr Raymond and Dorothy Moore in Better Late Than Early

You may have noticed that I have mentioned no text book learning above. This is because we don’t use text books until around 10 or older. Some children, especially girls, may want to begin text-book learning before 10. If so, go for it. Charmagne went straight into Saxon 65, a grade six text, at age 11 with no earlier exposure to any math textbook.

Life is a great teacher. I begin teaching shapes when I am cutting the toast for the toddler. Once the toddler knows the shapes we get started on fractions. Sometimes they know 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 before they can count to 25 because of cutting the toddler’s toast into 1/8ths. As they get a bit older and can handle baking, they learn more about fractions as they double or halve recipes. The clock or a watch is the best way to teach the time. The toddler quickly learns 7am, 12 noon and 6pm as the meal times. Our 4-year-old knows 3pm on the clock as he is not allowed to ride his bike outside the gate after that time because the school children are loose on the streets. We talk to our children as we go through the day so they pick up an incredible amount. We have found that most children do not necessarily learn as they interact with textbooks or workbooks. Just because a child has a lot of written work does not mean that child has learned a lot. But children do learn as they interact with their parents or with other adults, especially if they are encouraged to ask a lot of questions. When questions are coming thick and fast from the child and adults are giving serious answers, lots of learning is taking place. Now some children learn best from texts and work books. It is the preferred learning style for a significant number of children. If that is your child’s style, then go for it. But if your child doesn’t appear to be a book person, it may be time to change to something that works for that child.

Some people will be very nervous with the approach I’ve described above, and will want to follow a systematic scope and sequence to fill in all the gaps. Again, this particular learning style just doesn’t suit many children. In addition, learning gaps may be overrated. Do you know everything? Of course not. That is to say, you have learning gaps! Learning to recognise our gaps and knowing how to fill them when required is real education. Naturally as parents and adults who have gained a lot of understanding about the real world and the kind of education that really is needed out there, we will have a good outline of skills our children must master and knowledge our children must know. This will form the core of our curriculum. And as long as the children are asking questions, those interminable “Why?” questions, they are filling in the major gaps according to their own little scope and sequence system which the Lord seems to hot wire into almost all children. Again, here is where reading a wide range of books on a daily basis gives untold opportunities to discuss and explain an incredible number of issues and concepts that just crop up while your several minds are engaged with the passage.

The next step in training our children’s minds is to give them The Tools of Learning. These can be mastered in two to four years. I will explore this in a future article.

From Keystone Magazine

May 2002, Vol. VIII No. 3

PO Box 9064

Palmerston North

Phone: (06) 357-4399

Fax: (06) 357-4389


Webpage: https://hef.org.nz

Home Discipleship

Home Discipleship

Posted in Keystone Magazine Articles

by Barbara Smith

Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

We find that we are not home schooling or even home educating our children now but are discipling our children. We began back in 1985/6 by bringing school into our home. This current movement of home schooling began to mushroom back in 1983 in the States after an interview between Dr Dobson and Dr Raymond Moore on “Focus on the Family”. So we were there near the beginning. There was not much in the way of curriculum back then, only what was used in the schools. Local head masters gave out exemptions in those days, so the goverment had no idea how many children were being home schooled then.

We knew God was calling us to home school, but it was a new thing, there was not much information around at the time and the curriculum available was designed for schools. I thought that my education was lacking but Craig’s was good. His job was such that he was available to teach the children, so he taught our oldest three. For two years we struggled using a curriculum that our children were not responding too well to. Finally Craig took a child on his knee and worked through the workbook verbally: doing it this way caused them to get through it in a much shorter amount of time. We found that our children loved to be read to and to read. They especially loved to hear stories and would listen for hours, for Craig and the children would discuss all sorts of things from the reading they were doing. Gradually we realised that the school curriculum was not helping us at all, so we jumped ship and put together our own programme and began home educating our children instead of home schooling them.

I thought that you had to be one step ahead of your children. That meant you’d have to know everything you were teaching them and spend hours preparing each lesson. With the large numbers of families beginning to home educate, many more minds were exploring these issues. Home educators soon worked out (or perhaps simply rediscovered a principle lost when compulsory schooling took over in most countries) that one did not have to be one step ahead but could be more effective when learning along with the children.

As our personal circumstances changed, I also gained the confidence that I could home educate the children, so took on the task with our youngest three in 1997. I was challenged and have been influenced by the Charotte Mason and the Christian Classical approach, and later on by Diana Waring and family.

Our concern is that there are about 1000 children beginning home education every year in New Zealand and nearly 1000 children going back into the schools. We reckon this is largely because of stress and burnout of parents trying to keep too much of a school routine at home. This does not have to be. In a United Kingdom study of learning methods, Alan Thomas found that “Families starting out on home-based education who at first adopted formal methods of learning found themselves drawn more and more into less formal learning. Families who started out with informal learning at the outset found themselves drawn into even more informal learning. The methods that both groups grew into had much more in common with the method of younger children. The sequencing of learning material, the bedrock of learning in school, was seen increasingly as unnecessary and unhelpful.” Then he goes on to say, “This study challenges the almost universally held view that children of school age need to be formally taught if they are to learn. In school this may be the case, but at home they can learn just by living.”1

When do children learn the most? Yes, during the ages of 0-5. Do parents need a curriculm for this? No, although some within the teachers’ unions are trying their best to change this. Children ask lots of questions during this time which very effectively fills their current learning gaps. Tell me, do you have no learning gaps? Of course you do. When we began home schooling, we thought we needed to use a packaged curriculum so that we would not miss anything that our children should be learning, so that they would keep up with everyone else, so that they would have no learning gaps. Do the curriculums teach our children everything? No! So even the best curriculum will still leave learning gaps!!

How exciting to read Alan Thomas’s research and to put it together with our own experience and that of other home educators around us. What we find we are doing now is to extend the “natural” learning atmospere we have with our 0-5 year olds through to our 9 year olds. “You don’t need 15 years to educate somebody but you need 15 years to socialise somebody,” says Sir Neil Waters, past vice-chancellor of Massey University and NZQA’s Board Chairman.2 Yes, he is right…you can teach your child all the tools they need for learning in 2-4 years. (More on this in a future article.)

Since the home schooling movement has been around for 18 or so years, there are children now in their 20s who have been totally home educated. There are a lot of parents who have learned a great deal over this time about what home education is and isn’t. Some are even writing books and curriculum from their experiences, meaning for the first time ever there are books and curriculum written by home educators for home educators who understand what home education is all about. On top of that there are home educators who have written these materials from a Biblical Christian worldview.

One of these books is Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson3 who say, “You may ask how we know we are cooperating with God’s design when home schooling, per se, is never mentioned in Scripture. It’s because home education is not our primary goal at home – home discipleship is, and home education is simply the natural extension of home discipleship….God designed the home for discipleship, and when we follow God’s patterns and prinicples, the natural and normal fruit will be not only spiritual growth and maturity, but intellectual growth and maturity as well…. Your home is a dynamic living and learning environment designed by God for the very purpose of raising your children to become mature, useful disciples of Jesus. When you begin to understand the dynamic, you will find a freedom you never knew was possible in your home education. Home-centered learning helps you discover that dynamic so your home will work for you in discipling and educating your children.

“Home-centered learning is not just a new perspective on your home and family, though, it is also a new perspective on your children. Not only did God design home and family to be a learning environment, but He also designed children to learn naturally within that environment. Because children are made in God’s image, they are already intelligent, creative and curious. No matter what you do (or don’t do!), God has already put within them the drive to explore, discover, question and to learn….Your role as a home educating parent, then, is to provide a rich and lively living and learning environment in which your children can exercise their God-given drive to learn, and then to train and instruct your children within the natural context of your home and family life. It’s that simple.”

Discipling our children is a whole-of-life activity, not necessarily confined to a strict timetable, text books or so many pages in a workbook per day. Such an approach we have found to be far less stressful as well as a lot more fun, and we suspect that if more home educating parents caught on to this idea, fewer would be inclined to chuck it in after only a couple of years.


1. Home-Based Education – Not “Does it work?” but “Why does it work so well?” by Roland Meighan, University of Nottingham School of Education.

2. NZQA’s magazine LEARN, Issue 10, November 1996, p8. as quoted in Preparing for an ERO Review by Craig S Smith, available from Home Education Foundation, PO Box 9064, Palmerston North.

3. Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson, available from: Christian Education Services, 55 Richards Ave, Forrest Hill, North Shore City, or visit website http://www.wholeheart.orgFrom Keystone Magazine

July 2001, Vol. VII No. 4

Editor: Craig Smith

PO Box 9064

Palmerston North

Phone: (06) 357-4399

Fax: (06) 357-4389

Email: hedf@xtra.co.nz

Webpage: www.hef.org.nz

Learning to Read & Reading to Learn

Learning to Read & Reading to Learn

Posted in Keystone Magazine Articles

by Barbara Smith

You help a child Learn to Read so that thereafter the child may Read to Learn. What does this involve? It is much more than just teaching a child to read. We have used five different ways to teach our five reading children how to read over 17 or 18 years. Different children will learn how to read in different ways. Some children will not learn how to read until they are 9, 10 or 11; others will learn while watching you teach an older child or sometimes even before the older child and sometimes without any help from you.

We as parents must not stress out about this. It takes longer for some children’s cognitive development of their brain to reach the stage where they can read, yet for others this happens early. Before this aspect of brain development is complete, the child can learn lots of facts but will have trouble stringing the facts togeth-er. So this “late develping” child can learn the sounds of the alphabet and blending but have trouble sounding out the word. By the time this child is at the end of a sentence s/he has forgotten the beginning of the sentence. But once the brain’s cognitive development has reached the stage which makes the decoding process of reading easy, the child will begin to read a lot, and, are you ready for it, will be reading at his/her own age/in-terest level, rather than at the beginning levels.

So take heart you parents of late developers. Once it connects for them, they will very soon catch up and possibly exceed their peers. We don’t talk about fast and slow learners now, but early and late developers. They all have their unique learning styles; some learn to read at 3 or 4 and forever after have their head in a book. Others in the meantime are learning all sorts of other interesting life skills which are broadening their minds in readiness for when they begin reading. So relax, just work on teaching reading a little each day, 5-15 minutes a day, until they take off in their reading. But remember to read to these children for at least two hours a day until they are reading on their own, and continue reading to them after that for the vocabulary development, family closeness and other benefits I’ll mention later.

But this is just the beginning of teaching reading.

Once a child has “learned to read” it is ready to “read to learn”. It is also time to teach writing and researching skills. Most children will need to learn how to write reports, essays, letters, assignments and research projects. Teaching a child to read, write and research is the most intensive time in educating our children. Once this has been achieved, children are able to work more and more on their own until they are educating themselves. This also happens at different times for different children. Some children are always motivat-ed, others become motivated once they know what they want to do. Others need creative and patient parents who can come up with different triggers to get them going. For some it is getting out into the work force for a couple of hours a day or for one day a week and finding that they need to get more educated, or they will be working at that type of job the rest of their lives. Others are motivated by the reading they are doing.

This was the case for our son Zach, now 19. When he was 14/15 he worked for an engineer, who is a jack of all trades, all day every Tuesday. He learned that he did not want to be an engineer, mechanic, plumber, electrician or painter. He seemed to be no good with the pen, so we wondered where to from here. We kept getting him to do reports, etc., but it was a struggle. During this time when he was 15, Craig asked him to write a report on his holiday. It was full of “and thens”, and incredibly boring to read. Later in that same week he came out in the morning and informed us that he was going to write a book. We despaired thinking of all the “and thens” that would fill the book. Well, he surprised us completely. The first chapter had no “and thens” at all. His first few chapters were the spitting image of Alistair McLean, the author he really loved to read. He ended up going to the library and getting books out on Amazon basin flora and fauna, various South American countries’ military and amunition capabilities, topographical maps, etc., as this was his book’s setting. He learned heaps doing this and came up with some really interesting plots.

Once your children become more independent in their reading and researching, you will not be able to personally review or become familiar with the content of all they read. Therefore during this “reading to learn” stage (which actually lasts all the rest of their lives) it is important to help your children come to understand and recognise the worldview of the authors of the books they are reading and how this colours their writings. This is why you continue to read to them after they can read for themselves: it gives your family endless opportunities to discuss the ideas, concepts and worldviews expressed by the authors you are reading. You want your children to be discerning readers, who will know when to put a book down and not continue with it, who will know when they are being fed a line of unChristian propaganda, who will be able to resist a high-powered sales pitch, who will be able to tell if even a Christian writer’s theology is either wonky or orthodox.

For example, in an earlier article, I mentioned that we are looking at buying New Zealand author Elsie Locke’s books because she had been highly recommended to us. Well, she has two or three good books, but the rest are not as good. In the 9 April 2001 Manawatu Evening Standard, this article appeared:

Special Tribute to Campaigner

She was a tiny woman physically, but her qualities and stature were enormous. Family and friends yesterday paid tribute to Elsie Loche, a peace campaigner, enviromentalist, novelist, historian, community worker, and “national treasure”, who died at her Christchurch home at the weekend. She was 88. Mrs Loche’s huge list of community efforts include helping to found the group that became the Family Planning Association, starting the nuclear disarmament campaign in the 1960s, writing more than 20 books for children and adults, advocating for environmental protection, and forming and running the Avon Loop Planning Association, which limited development around Christchurch’s Oxford Terrace. She was the recipient of numerous awards, including an honorary doctorate from Canterbury University.

This tribute tells you a lot about Elsie Loche’s world view which may or may not agree with your own.

To help understand world views, there are several books on the market now. Understanding the Times by David A. Noebel of Summit Ministries in Colorado Springs is excellent. Our daughter Genevieve has studied the unabridged book and also been to Summit Ministries in the States for two weeks. She highly recommends this book and Summit Ministries. Diana Waring recommends the abridged edition of this book. The abridged edition is available from Christian Education Services and Answers in Genesis for $55.00. AIG say in their catalogue “Church leader Dr D James Kennedy believes that this massive book could be more valuable to young people than their university education. Looks at the inconsistencies of humanism, in the New Age movement, Marxism/Leninism and other world views, and shows the truthfulness of the biblical Christian world view. Helps students recognize bias in teachers, the media, and friends and helps adult Christians counteract false thinking in others. 402 pages.”

Another great book is Let us Highly Resolve by David Quine. Diana Waring said of this book, “[It] deals with one of the most important issues facing us as Christian parents today – raising our children in a Biblical world view. That is the core, the very foundation, of who we are and why we do what we do, especially as it concerns our parenting. David and Shirley have issued a clarion call to us all, the call to carefully, thoughtfully, and Biblically prepare our children to be leaders in the 21st century. I encourage you to read this book prayerfully. It may be the most important book you ever read!” Let Us Highly Resolve is available from Christian Education Services, 55 Richards Ave, Forrest Hill, North Shore City, New Zealand, Ph/fax (09) 410-3933, email:   cesbooks@intouch.co.nz . Carol (of CES) hopes to get other books on Worldviews, so ask her about them next time you are in touch with her.

From Keystone Magazine

May 2001, Vol. VII No. 3

Editor: Craig Smith

PO Box 9064

Palmerston North

Phone: (06) 357-4399

Fax: (06) 357-4389

Email:  barbara@hef.org.nz

 Webpage: www.hef.org.nz