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Encouragement to Help You On Your Way

These articles, typically written by Cris Loop, are short tidbits of experiences/thoughts designed specifically to encourage you in your homeschooling endeavors.

Click below to read the article of your choice:

 

Homeschool Encouragement

Homeschool Tip: Out-of-Control Thoughts

By Cris Loop

As parents, our thoughts can take us many different directions. Worrying over our children, planning their futures, waxing proud over their accomplishments–these are just a few unbiblical thoughts that tend to creep into our hearts and can quickly get out of control, influencing how we act and how we raise our children.

We can’t see thoughts, so, like the dust on the back of a refrigerator, they don’t get dealt with as regularly as they should. We constantly battle ungodly thoughts in different forms. They pass by our mind’s depot…but the problem comes when we jump on board. You are probably the only one who knows if you are dealing with “runaway” thoughts…at least in the early stages of this sin. If we are not taking our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ by holding them up to the truth of God’s Word, they could be taking us captive and taking us (and our children through our leading) places we don’t want to and/or should not go.

So my tip this month is simple: when you find your thoughts running away in the wrong direction, run to Jesus. Thank Him for saving you and defeating sin. Ask Him to cleanse you. Seek His truth on the subject consuming your thoughts, and do whatever it takes (listen to Scripture, sing praises, pray, etc.) to put your mind back on Him. And don’t be afraid to let your children see you run back to Jesus (and to make them part of the process)—that just might be their most important lesson of the day.

Homeschool Tip: When It Gets Tough

- by Cris Loop
Life has it ups and downs like everything else. We get used to the everyday downs. We learn to discipline a disobedient child, and give comfort to our child with a cold. We can put together a meal for a friend in need and deal with a schedule change.

But what happens when after months of dealing with the same issue, another is added, and then another? What happens when “things” completely outside your control happen to you and to those you love in rapid succession? Whether the issues are learning glitches, disobedience, schedule upsets, church family problems, extended family problems, health challenges, livelihood difficulties, etc., when these “things” come and stay–or grow in severity–it’s easy to be discouraged.

You may remember intellectually that God is working all things for good for you, and maybe you can even see the good–but it’s still hard. You are hurting. You feel as though you have been wounded in battle.

Recently this happened to me. I felt totally discouraged. Every family member was facing yet another challenge that seemed insurmountable.

As I cried out for help, the Lord answered with the phone call from a friend. She quickly picked up the fact that I was battle weary and said, “Since you are on the ground anyway, go all the way down and just worship Jesus.”

As I began to thank the Lord for all He has given me through Jesus, the discouragement gave way to hope. I became more aware that faith in God is not based on circumstances or what He does for us, but it is based on who He is and His truth.

While my circumstances have not changed, I am no longer discouraged. God is happy to fight my battles for me. I can trust His care and praise Him from the battlefield.

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me…My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” Psalm 57:1-2, 7

Homeschool Tip: Too Busy to Rest?

By Cris Loop
Have you ever noticed how full schedules can get? Sometimes, things seem to add themselves to the calendar at a faster rate than they come off it. We end up wishing we could just press a pause button for one second to give us time to breath.

As we head into the busy holiday season, take a few minutes to look seriously at your schedule. Have you left time in your day to sit at God’s feet and get fed (so you’ll have something left to feed your children!), to giggle and cuddle with your children (they are only young once), to listen to that teenager talk, to have fun as a family, and to spend quality time with your husband? Or are the important things in life being pushed aside by life’s busyness?

Note: This is an area in which most of us struggle in our fast-paced society. One resource we’ve found really helpful is Dr. Richard Swenson’s book, Margin and A Minute of Margin (which only takes a minute a day to read).

Homeschool Tip: Checking the Box

- By Cris Loop
These past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time cooking. And not just cooking, but meal planning and grocery shopping as well. For those of you who know me, you know that I’m more of a cleaner than a cooker, an improviser than a planner. The whole area of food planning and preparation is not of special interest to me, and in the past, I would have gladly turned those tasks over to anyone who would take them. Obviously though, in one way or another, I’ve fed my family for years. But I did this in a check-the-box sort of way, if you know what I mean. This summer, however, circumstances required me to really focus on cooking. Instead of shrinking away, I chose to embrace the task. As I’ve done so, I’m actually finding myself enjoying wearing an apron!

So what does this have to do with homeschooling? Maybe not much, and maybe a lot. As many of you are going back to a more academic schedule this time of year, it might be a good time to evaluate if there’s any box-checking going on in your home. If you, like me, have areas you look at with dread, be willing to admit it to yourself, to others, and to God (after all, He already knows). Then ask God for His solution. Perhaps it’s simply that you need to choose to thank Him for the task even though you don’t like it…or maybe it’s not something He would have you doing. But whatever the case, there’s nothing like the joy of watching Him teach you and show you things through the area that used to be one of dread.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” Colossians 3:23

Homeschool Tip: New Thoughts

- Cris Loop

My tip this month is to daily keep in God’s Word, seeking His thoughts on the different challenges and joys of parenting. It’s all-too-easy to carry our old, sinful thinking into the new settings we find ourselves in as Christians—and into our parenting.

God wants to give us His thoughts—to change, not just our outside activities, but our whole mentality. And as we change, our homeschools will change too.

So ask God to show you the areas that need to be changed…and then to help you walk forward in the victory Christ already won for you. Have a great summer!

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

Homeschool Tip: Missed Opportunities

- Cris Loop

How many opportunities do we miss everyday? A recent experience while traveling has got me pondering that question–and asking God to help me listen more to Him in the moment so I won’t miss the opportunities He brings.

Last week while my husband and I were traveling, I got in a friendly conversation with a woman at one of the rest stops. Now I had just finished reading a book on witnessing, and as I got in the car, I was reminded that meeting this woman was an opportunity to share Jesus. I wished I had thought to bring eternity into the conversation so that I could have shared the Lord or planted a seed. At that point, all I could do was pray.

Six hours later, after lunch and a few more stops, my husband pulled over to yet another rest stop. As I walked into the rest room, I was shocked as the same woman I had met earlier that day came out of one of the stalls! This time we greeted each other like old friends, excited that we would meet again so unexpectedly so many hours later. When she asked where I was going it would have been so easy to say, “I’m going to Virginia right now, but my final destination is heaven, how about you?” Or when she said how nice and strange it was to see me–I could have said, “I wonder if this is not a divine appointment. Can I ask you if you know where you are going to spend eternity?” But, even though I had prayed for her, I was so caught up in the moment I didn’t think to say any of that until I was back in the car. I missed yet another opportunity.

In short, I realized I miss a lot of opportunities all the time, with my children and with those around me. God tells us to be prepared in season and out of season–we never know when an opportunity will come up!

“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4:5-7

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:1-3

Homeschool Tip: Stuck

- Cris Loop

We are very close to completing a master bathroom remodeling project that was supposed to be completed in April. What was contracted for three weeks has taken seven-and-a-half months. It has been a long,  trying road, with many opportunities for extending and receiving grace, forgiveness, and patience.

Why did this project take so long? I have asked the Lord that question so many times I feel like a three year old! Turns out there were quite a few reasons, but the one that I want to share with you is about being focused on the problem. For a long time, we got focused on one part of the project that was causing trouble. As long as we stayed looking at that problem and the many unsuccessful fixes, we couldn’t move forward with the rest of the bathroom. It paralyzed everyone involved.

I can remember this tactic of Satan getting in the way of homeschooling too. It’s easy to get sidetracked and stuck. Learning glitches, comparing progress, life’s challenges, church commitments– I have found that when I make anything other then pleasing the Lord a priority in life, I can easily be sidetracked or get stuck. Focusing on a problem can be discouraging and can lead us down a disheartening path.

If you’re feeling stuck in an area, remember to step back and look at the big picture. Lift your eyes to the Lord and focus on Him rather than on the problem. If you’re stuck on a school concept, consider letting it rest for a bit. Or, if you work on it still, don’t focus on the struggle–remember instead the big picture: God is working all things together for good to them that love Him.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Homeschool Tip: Challenge for the New (School) Year

- Cris Loop

I love this time of year. The nights get a little cooler, and there is the excitement of change. Even if you don’t follow the traditional school year in your homeschool, finishing long summer days and getting ready for winter brings new opportunities. For many, fall means a return to the academics. It may not be the calendar new year, but it marks a new “school” year for many of us.

This school year, I want to challenge you with something that I think will revolutionize your homeschooling: Commit to bring the gospel message to your children everyday in a fresh and real way. I’m not talking about just telling them the gospel. I’m talking about making a conscience effort to get our eyes off of ourselves so that we can be sensitive to the myriad of opportunities God provides for us to share the gospel throughout the day. Opportunities to proclaim the goodness of God abound, but we need to be sensitive to them.

A complaint from a child, a hurt knee, a grumpy salesperson–all are opportunities to show the gospel to your children. Bringing the gospel might mean praying with a child with a hurt knee and encouraging him that one day there will be no more tears in Heaven…or a reminder to the complaining child that the enemy would love to steal his days in complaints instead of praise, but Jesus has won the victory if he’ll only choose to walk in it…or a kind word followed later by a prayer for a grumpy salesman. Remember, your children see every interaction you have with others, so when they see you interacting–and choosing to live the gospel yourself–they are learning how to live God’s love in words, deeds, and prayer.

You could also have your children practice sharing the gospel to you and to each other! Remember, what is done in the home will be repeated outside of the home. And if we have a habit of sharing the good news and keeping it in the forefront of our minds, it will be easier to share it with others.

May this year be your best year ever!

Homeschool Tip: Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual warfare–ever have times when you are moving along fine until all of a sudden you seem to hit a brick wall over and over and over again? Perhaps you can’t figure out why your child is struggling…or why you don’t seem to have everything together like other moms and dads. And everything you do to fix the situation only seems to make it worse.

You may or may not feel this way in your homeschool or life right now, but my guess is you know what I’m talking about. As believers, we are warned that we have an enemy, but many times we forget we are in a battle until things get really bad. When things aren’t going right and continue to not go right, I feel like Kyle in this month’s story–as if I’m waking up in the middle of a battlefield.

Waking up is a good thing–but it can be devastating! You can wake up wounded and bleeding. Sometimes the enemy has stolen so much ground you don’t know where to turn or what to do. You want to give up–not just on homeschooling, but on everything. I want to encourage you that even though you were sleeping, God was not. Nothing happened while you were sleeping that has not been through your Father’s hands. There is always hope, and God is true to His promise that He works all things for good to those that love Him. His timing is perfect. He is waking you up so you can see how truly wonderful He is–something you will miss if you go back to sleep again.

Sleeping is such a temptation. It’s something the enemy wants you to continue. If you find yourself “waking up” to a battle, Ben offered Kyle some good advice in today’s story: don’t delay, run to your heavenly Father, remind yourself of God’s Truth, read and apply His Word in your life, and watch God work. We aren’t a match for the enemy, but we don’t have to be because Jesus has already defeated him.

Homeschool Tip: Gaining a Fresh Perspective

- Cris Loop

For weeks now, there has been a bird that keeps trying to get into our house. It keeps flying into the window, staying 10-15 seconds, and then flying away. Naturally, I have begun to wonder why this bird is still coming to my window! I wish I knew the answer–but every member of my family has a different thought as to why the bird is still continuing to visit our window, and each has his or her own solution to the situation.

As I was sharing this strange occurrence with a friend of mine to see if she had any thoughts, I was surprised to find out she was experiencing the same thing with a number of birds on several of her windows. And she had yet another thought as to how to handle the birds.

This got me to thinking how unique we all are–and how differently we all view the same thing. How nice it would be to have the labeler Julian had in this month’s story in order to know God’s perspective on these birds and many other things that puzzle me. As I was thinking about this, it hit me that God has given all of us a labeler–His Word–and paying attention to that Word is something we need to cultivate in our lives and in the lives of our children. God’s Word and His Holy Spirit reveal to us God’s perspective on everything–and we can by our example instill in our children a habit of seeking God’s perspective through His Word.

This month, I would encourage you to spend some time in God’s word seeking His perspective for yourself and for your children. No matter how things went this year, each day you have a new opportunity to seek and embrace God’s perspective.

Update: Since the writing of this tip, the bird has mysteriously stopped visiting our window, for which we’re all very thankful!

Homeschool Tip: Waiting Happily

- Cris Loop

Early this morning I woke up to find a dog sitting outside my deck door looking into my house. It startled me to see his content, expectant, happy countenance. And it puzzled me that his demeanor did not change when I walked toward the door to look at him more closely, nor when I walked back away from the door. I wondered, Why is this dog here? What is it waiting for? Was it lost? How can it be so happy and content? How and why had it come to this dead-end part of the deck–two stories above the ground?

This dog’s sweet countenance got me to thinking about waiting on the Lord, not only without anxiety and fear, but with joyful expectation! This dog was waiting joyfully for me…and he didn’t even have a clue who I was or that I could be trusted. How much more contentedly should we wait when we know we can trust the Lord!

This month, as you wait on the Lord for different aspects of your life or homeschool, I pray you will wait like the dog this morning–with joyful expectation. I can assure you God has the whole picture and your ultimate best interest in sight–your eternal interests. Join me in thanking Him that His mercies are new every morning.

Homeschool Tip: Letting the Fear Go

- Cris Loop

Fear is no stranger to homeschooling parents. And, as Katherine shared,
it can keep us from walking in freedom or–as it did to Anthony in the
story–keep us from walking at all. The sad part is that many times we
don’t even know that we are afraid. When I was homeschooling, I had lots
of fears and didn’t even know it.

Was I smart enough to really give my children the academics they
needed? Would they know how to interact with others? Was I using the
“right” curriculum? Could I really homeschool them during this trial? Was
I teaching them what they need to know? It wasn’t until my children
graduated that I saw how these fears had affected the day-to-day decisions
in our homeschooling.

For example, to combat my fear of not being smart enough to teach my
own children, I stressed academics. While academics are a part of
homeschooling, for a couple of years I put them above more important
things. Yes, there was a lot of pride in how “smart” my children were.

In a similar fashion, my fear that my children would not be properly
socialized led me to adapt some of the world’s thinking in this
area. In the early years of my homeschooling journey, rather than
trusting God for social settings with people of all ages, I fell
into purposefully putting my children in situations where they were around
peers. As I think about it, some of my emphasis there was fear of
what others would think if I didn’t.

One day a dear woman saw what was happening in my home and shared with
me the joy and peace of just letting God have control of each and every
day–of putting Jesus first in everything. I needed to let go of my fears,
along with my pride and reputation, and let Jesus have the number one place in
our homeschool. It is my prayer for you this month is that you would be
able to hand over any fears you might have and walk daily in the joy and
peace only God can bring.

Homeschool Tip: Thank the Lord for Your
Family

- Cris Loop

Praising God for our families comes easily most of the time, but there
are times when it is downright difficult. Family members seem to know just
how to get under our skin. Add to that the demands of homeschooling, and
praising God for each member of our families can easily get lost. While we
praise the Lord for others, our families–like the cobbler’s children who
go without shoes–often get overlooked.

Years ago, the Lord gave me an idea to help me be more thankful for my
family on those more trying days and on a more regular basis. I created a
list of thirty character traits I love about my husband. Later, I did
similar lists for my children. At the top, I put “Qualities I love about
________.” As I made out the lists, God showed me how some of the very
things that were causing strife and frustrating me were actually strengths
God had given. Since then, the lists have helped me refocus and praise
during the challenges that inevitably arise as we work together as a
family.

This month, I’d encourage you to make a conscious effort to praise the
Lord for each member of your family. You’ll be amazed at the difference it
can make in both your homeschool day and your marriage.

Homeschool Tip: Just Do Your Part

- Cris Loop

As I listened to a concert the other night, I was struck by the number
of different sounds and by how well they blended. Each musician had a part
and played it skillfully–so skillfully it sounded like one glorious
instrument. It got me to thinking how wonderful it would be to be part of
a group working toward one goal like this. And then it hit me–I
am! I’m part of the body of Christ–a unique group of “instruments”
all working together. I’m also part of a family unit that works together
on a daily basis.

Could my family work together like this band? If each member of my
family worked hard on doing his part from the Lord and on listening to and
following Jesus, could we “sound” so wonderful? And if we could, how would
we start?

As I’ve been pondering how to work together as a family, I have
realized that each of us has a choice to apply ourselves to the part the
Lord has given us and to follow our conductor–Jesus. We are responsible
for our part. Working together starts with each member of the family!
Ultimately, it starts with me. As parents, we need to follow God’s
instructions and apply ourselves to the part God has given us. We cannot
control what others do–or the outcome. We can only do what the Lord gives us to do, listening to Him and relying on His strength.

That’s my tip for you this month–listen to God and do your part. Don’t allow anything to get you distracted.

Homeschool Tip: Trusting God

- Cris Loop

“Relax, let go, be still and know that I am your God”–this line from
a song* based on Psalm 46:10 has been going over and over again
in my mind these past few months as I have struggled in my thought life.
I’ve asked “why?” so many times. Why am I troubled? Is it because things
aren’t going how I had planned? Why am I being silent when I want to speak
up? Why is there so much conflict all around me? My list of questions–of
inner fears or worries–could go on.

In homeschooling, worries and fears arise a lot too. Can I really teach
my children? Are they learning what they need to know? Will they turn out
okay? Am I using the right curriculum? Will my son ever enjoy reading? Why
is my daughter struggling? Is it because of something I’m doing wrong? The
list of homeschool questions–of homeschool worries or fears–can go on
and on too.

When I looked at the line in the song and its profound words, I saw a
very clear answer to overcoming worry and fear. It can be summed up in
three words: God is trustworthy.

So, if you are struggling with worries or fears in your homeschooling
this month, stop and ponder the call God gave you when you began
homeschooling; relax; let go of your concerns, worries, and fears; and
trust God. Be still by listening and obeying what He directs you to do,
because He really is BIG enough to handle everything pertaining to you.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the
heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10 (KJV)

*John G. Elliott, “Relax, Let Go” (Galestorm Music (ASCAP), 1999), In
the album In the Quiet (Galestorm Music, 2000).

Homeschool Tip: Are You Listening?

- Cris Loop

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear,
slow to speak, slow to wrath.” James 1:19

“Are you listening?” This was a question that has been brought to my
attention a number of times over the last couple of months. It got me to
thinking how do we really hear God’s voice? Am I really listening to God?
And if so, am I acting on what I hear?

I found I was not listening as carefully as I would like to–and I am
definitely too quick to respond. Thinking back to how my deaf ears and
quick tongue affected my homeschooling made me sad. There is so much
wisdom in listening, waiting to speak, and letting God take care of the
situation.

My tip for you this month is to embrace this wisdom. Really listen!
Show your children how to really listen to what is being said. Before
speaking, take a minute to be sure you are speaking according to God’s
Word. And instead of taking any circumstance personally, be slow to allow
wrath a foot in the door. You’ll be glad you did.

Homeschool Tip: It’s Time!

- Cris Loop

“It’s time!”–this was the joyful message I felt the Lord giving me as
a friend presented me a clock, along with a card on which was written,
“All your tomorrows are in God’s hands” and Philippians 1:6 (NIV), “He who
began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

It’s time! Time for what? I wondered. Was God trying to
tell me it is time to give up striving on my own and just let Him take
care of everything? Was He trying to tell me that my life was safe in His
hands? Was He confirming that indeed He is ready to act?

My mind raced in many directions, but only one thing was clear–I
needed to remain still in God’s presence and continue to be surrendered to
His plan for me and my family. After all, it’s always time to be
surrendered to God.

Being surrendered to God’s plan over ours is one of the very best
things we can teach our children. As you surrender your days to God, it
will have an effect on your children. Surrendering is real–it takes
courage, and it exemplifies obedience. It shows your children who is
number one in your life as nothing else can. We can talk all we want to,
but, if we are not following God in the way we walk, we cannot expect our
children to as they get older.

School may or may not be out for the summer, but whether it is or not
doesn’t really matter–it’s always time to let God have all of you, and
all of your homeschooling endeavors. Whether you’re schooling or just
enjoying the summer and thinking about fall plans, take some time to
ponder how much God loves you and your children and promises to carry on
the good work He has begun. Take some time to ask Him to show you areas
you may need to surrender to Him. Please join me this month in praying
that we will let God have ALL areas of our lives.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life
for his friends.” John 15:13 (KJV)

A Springtime Reflection – A New
Creature

- Cris Loop

Spring is finally here! I don’t know about you, but the first signs of
spring always presented a challenge of one type or another to my
homeschooling efforts. Either I was trying to rush my children to finish
their academics for the school year, or I was overwhelmed by how far we
were behind and wondering if I could really continue. Either way, the
beautiful spring weather was beckoning me to take a break and “play
outside” in my yard! On those spring days, I slightly resented
schooling…and my attitude affected the whole atmosphere of our home. The
only way I held it together during those spring months was knowing I had to make myself keep focused.

Much like the knowledge that I had to keep focused held us together
during the spring and helped me deal with other attitudes, knowing our
identity in Christ really makes a difference in how we live! This has hit
me in a fresh way recently. One verse in particular has been bringing it
home:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things
are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” – 2 Corinthians
5:17

Just think–not only am I a new creature with Christ’s righteousness,
but the old is passed away! Rather than struggling and feeling hopelessly
unable to fight against sin, I can praise God He has already won the
battle
in my life! As I’ve realized I’m a new creature, God’s been
able to conquer areas I have struggled with for years.

This month, I want you to look at how God has brought you out of
slavery too–slavery to sin. I know this might not seem like it has to do
with homeschooling, but it does! Understanding we’re no longer slaves is
key to living victoriously in Christ–and to training our children to live
in His freedom. Remember, our attitudes trickle down.

Ruled by God’s Love

- Cris Loop

This month, I have been amazed by God’s unconditional love. I saw it in
God’s dealings with the Israelites despite their grumbling, in His
faithfulness to Zechariah in the midst of his questioning heart, and in
His love poured out on David in the Psalms. Everywhere I turned, God’s
love and faithfulness seemed to be like a neon light screaming at me, so I
wasn’t too surprised when Katherine’s story also had this theme.

There are a lot of aspects of God’s love to speak on, but the one that
seems to keep coming back to me is how God’s love puts a sparkle in our
lives and changes us–when we let it. And when we let His love transform
us, it can also make a difference in the lives of those around us. Just
think, each day you have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives
of your children by letting your heart be ruled by God’s love.

The Lord began convicting me of how little I was really trusting Him
and expressing His love to those around me. Guess that is why I noticed
His love and faithfulness and found such comfort in the accounts of the
Israelites, Zechariah, and David. Each one did not “get it right,” yet God
didn’t cut them off or take away His promises; instead, He showered them
with His unconditional love. The Israelites eventually entered the
Promised Land, Zechariah became the father of John the Baptist, and David
was called a man after God’s own heart.

This month, my prayer for you is to allow God’s love to rule you so
that it spills over to your family. As you go throughout the day, ponder
His love for you. If He shows you areas you are allowing the cares of this
world choke His truth, give them to Him. Let the knowledge of God’s love
put a sparkle in all you do!

“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may
be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be
made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me,
and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

John 17:22-23

Setting Goals

- Cris Loop

At the beginning of this year I found myself touring the Pentagon
looking at “ground zero,” not just literally, but spiritually as well. For
one of the first times in my life, I began thinking about a family mission
and goals. Somehow, walking the hallways of each of the branches of our
military and seeing the displays of both successful and failed past
missions spoke to me of the importance not only of setting godly goals,
but also of building a plan to carry them out.

It seemed obvious from the displays that missions with clearly defined
plans were more successful than those in which the mission was not so
clearly defined. Vietnam was the biggest example of this–the lack of a
clear mission had hampered operations. I began wondering if our
homeschooling endeavors could suffer from not having a clearly defined
mission–and if a clearly defined mission could have a huge impact on how
we educate our children? I believe it could.

Looking back, I can see how, while I had an overall mission of
fulfilling the charge God had given me with my children and training them
to know and love Him, I did not always keep that mission in the forefront
of my life. Nor did I always have clear attainable goals that would lead
me towards that overall mission. As a result, days (and years) were not
used as effectively as they could have been toward reaching my
mission.

As you enter the New Year, why not take a moment and examine your
mission, ask God for attainable goals, and develop a plan to reach them?
If my observations from the halls of the Pentagon are accurate, you will
be one step closer to a successful mission. I’ll be praying for you as I
take my own advice and work with my husband to set our family mission and
goals for 2010.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth
the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18

Dealing with the Cares

- Cris Loop

Cares, concerns, or WORRIES! We all have them. They range from choosing
the right curriculum to genuine concerns about our personal ability to
teach our children. They might include socialization fears, future job and
family opportunities for our children, or simply the persistent thought
that others think we are weird. You name it, and I’m sure someone has
carried it as a care.

God did not intend for it to be this way. As I was lying awake at the
hospital unable to move after a recent surgery, I experienced a lot of
cares! Was my tumor cancer? Would I have the opportunity to share the Lord
with those I’d been neglecting? Would my children soon forget me? As you
can see, my mind was going in a very care-filled direction. I was almost
overwhelmed. But a strange thing began to happen as I began to identify
these cares one by one. I was able to give them to the Lord and trust Him.
Before I knew it, I was in a place where my only concern was that I please
God with my life. This was truly freeing.

So this month, as you give God your cares, make it your prayer to
please Him with your life. As other cares try to creep in, cast them out!
Can you imagine the difference it will make to your homeschooling day if
you weren’t carrying any concerns? I’m praying you’ll give it a try.

PS: The tumor was cancer-free, and God is miraculously healing the
large incision from the inside out!

Homeschool Tip: Harboring “Strangers”?!

- Cris Loop

The Lord has recently shown me I’d let “strangers” (like those in
Katherine’s story–ungodly thoughts and feelings) into my heart. Let me
say that again, because this realization was shocking to me, I had let strangers into my heart! They didn’t get there on their
own–I had let them in.

This realization threatened to overcome and paralyze me. The enemy was
right there ready to beat me over the head with condemnation and
guilt.

Then God faithfully spoke: “Take every thought captive to the obedience
of Christ.” I couldn’t change the past, but I could start taking my
thoughts captive starting now. After asking the Lord how to take my
thoughts captive (which was nothing more than really turning the problem
over to the Lord), I proceeded to see God’s great and overwhelming love
being poured out to me. As I gave God my thoughts, I was able to see His
grace more and more. His Words of reassuring love that He has indeed
covered over ALL my sin and shame became more real. I was then able to
rest in His finished work, stand back up, and trust Him to fix what I had
messed up.

When you realize you’ve let “strangers” into your heart, don’t let the
realization keep you from functioning properly. Everything around you will
suffer if you do. Your homeschooling efforts, your joy, your relationships
with other believers–EVERYTHING (at least everything that counts)! The
enemy would like nothing more than to have you keep your eyes on you,
rendering you ineffective. My tip is to take your thoughts captive–and
when you realize how you’ve failed, run into to your Father’s arms and
rest in His unchanging love.

Additional Requirements

- Cris Loop

As homeschool moms and dads we can relate to the Joseph in the above story and his desire to do more, can’t we? We have heard God’s call and want the best for our children. As a result, we are often tempted to go beyond our “instructions,” only to find out later we are “muddling” our conductor’s arrangement.

When I first started homeschooling, I wanted my children to succeed in every area of life. I knew God was making a way for my children to be homeschooled, and God had promised Isaiah 54:13 (NIV), All your sons will be taught by the LORD,
and great will be your children’s peace.”

With this type of promise you would think I could have relaxed a little. I didn’t. Like Joseph, I added requirements to our day that were not really necessary. It was years before I realized my human efforts to “do more” were nothing more than well disguised concerns due to a lack of trust in God. My desire to please God and do a good job was getting in the way of what God had for us.

As you lay out your fall plans and schedules, remember to take those plans and schedules to the Lord and listen to His “instructions.” Don’t be afraid to adjust as He shows you things that need to change. You’ll be glad you did.

Grounding Our Children in the Truth

- Cris Loop

We have just returned from a wonderful week at Creation College put on by Answers in Genesis (www.answersingenesis.org). We heard a lot on how God’s Word is being attacked all around us, so I wanted to encourage you this month to make grounding your children in God’s Word your number one priority! You only have a short season where you have the time and opportunities you have right now.

So how do you go about teaching your children the truth of God’s Word? The answer to that question could fill a whole book, but I want to encourage you with just one small thought. Begin by adopting a biblical worldview yourself. There are so many things and so many ways we think contrary to the Word of God that we’re not even aware of. Even our justifications sometimes to do good things can be filled with worldly thinking. God’s thoughts and ways are much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). Seek them! Begin by questioning your thoughts and actions before the Lord.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (KJV)

Examining Your Goals

- Cris Loop

Goals? Everyone around me seems to be talking about them! : ) And for good reason. Goals affect us whether or not we think we have them, and whether or not we consciously put them on paper.

Years ago, I had a goal to raise my children to know and love God. Yet in practice, I wasn’t living like I believed this goal. I was trying to make my children excel in academics and life–to make them be “good” people. Yes, they learned scripture–lots of it, but just learning scripture was not really enough to reach my goal.

I had a good goal–but I didn’t know how to reach it. I didn’t have a clue how to raise my children to love God!

I’m grateful God brought an older woman into my life who showed me that, first and foremost, I needed to know and love God, not just intellectually, but in the very core of my being. As I trusted His love and began to read His Word, not just to learn more about Him, but to actually hear His voice, I would be training my children too.

I had to (and still have to!) repent of the other goals I’d unconsciously adopted, and listen as God showed me changes that needed made in our homeschooling. When all was said and done, I didn’t want to look back on these years and discover I’d wasted them on all the wrong goals.

As school comes to a close and summer begins, take some quiet time to examine your goals for your children. Is what you’re doing matching those goals? Are there any changes that need to be made? If you find you’ve been sidetracked, repent and thank God for His forgiveness. Remember, each day is brand new! Above all else, seek Him with your whole heart yourself. Read His Word and reflect on His love. Let Him become the goal in all you do.

“Stuck” in the Basement

- Cris Loop

Have you ever had a project that you were working on and working on and working on? For one reason or another, “things” were not moving forward. Sometimes it appeared you made progress, but you quickly ended up back where you began or ended worse than you were when you started! You tried something different each time to help you not go back to chaos, but it didn’t last. Maybe you were stuck like I was on getting my basement to be useable space. I’d been working on getting my basement useable for at least five years.

This past week, I had a “basement breakthrough.” I am amazed at how quick and easy it was to get unstuck with a willing heart and the loving help of a friend who has a gift for bringing order out of chaos. I discovered my little quick fixes to try and clean things up were creating more of a mess and keeping me from success. I had started to clean up areas but never completed them. Without dealing with the root causes of the problem, I had continued to keep creating more of a mess. Without a vision of where or how to go, and without structure to build from, things continued to pile up and be unusable. I had done surface organizing for years while ignoring the real problem.

In homeschooling, child training, and life, we tend to get stuck just like I did in my basement. Not knowing what to do with children when certain issues keep coming up over and over–whether they are academic or character issues–can be more frustrating than an unusable basement.

But we don’t have to stay stuck. We can abandon our surface fixes and ask the Lord to show us the real issues and help us deal with them, much like my organizer friend helped me see and deal with the root issues of my basement. We can let God give us His vision and work out in us the things that need changed to bring His order into our homes.

Of course, facing the real problem and not just doing surface organizing isn’t exactly easy, nor does it happen overnight. My basement is still in progress–it will take a lot of work to get it to where I want it to go. Our lives are constantly in progress too. But we don’t have to remain stuck! I can see where I am going in my basement now, and I am willing to deal with the real mess and the heart/character issues that created the mess.

Moms, do you have a clear vision for your family, children, and homeschool? Or are you stuck? Unsure what to do with that struggling child or how to handle that situation? If you’re feeling stuck and unsure how to get yourself unstuck, start by abandoning any surface fixes you might be doing and get to the real issues. Ask God for a willing heart and the courage to face your root issues so you can get unstuck. I can promise you, He will send you the help you need when you are willing and ready to listen. He has already provided in His Word the vision and the structure to bless you in your homeschooling! He longs and waits to help you.

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalm 127:1 (KJV)

Homeschool Tip: Gratitude – Setting the Tone

- Cris Loop

Writing about gratefulness this month has been a challenge for me. It seemed my family has greeted me with ungratefulness at every turn. What was wrong with them? Couldn’t they see how hard I was working to serve them and help me out a little? Why did I have to do everything? And to top it off, why did they give me blank stares when I lectured them about their ungratefulness?

I have come to realize I was trying to take the speck out of my family’s eyes without removing the plank in my own! Ungratefulness is an empty–and deadly–path we find ourselves on before we know it.

There are many things that contribute to our lack of gratitude–the cares and worries of this world, thinking about ourselves, looking for treasure in this world, expecting things to be “fair” or “right,” exhaustion, serving in the flesh, etc.–but how to we get rid of ungratefulness? How can we cast it away like a dirty garment?

One clear way is to come humbly before God–to repent and realize the many blessings you have because of God’s great mercy toward you in Jesus. From there, make a conscious effort to cultivate an attitude of gratitude by looking to the Lord for His truth and light in every situation and circumstance. It is amazing how looking at life in God’s light brings gratitude to our hearts.

Remember, as a mom you set the tone in your home. My challenge for you this month is to ask God to cultivate in you a grateful heart that you might “pass it on” to your children. Many blessings to you all.

Homeschool Tip: Wasting Time

- By Cris Loop

Last week, while I was really struggling with life, a dear friend shared one of her favorite sayings: “There is nothing as far away as a minute ago.”

There is so much truth to this profound statement and to its application. And whether you are busy or not, you can’t take back the time you had a minute ago! You can only change the present.

As I pondered this saying, I realized being busy was not an indication of whether I was wasting time or not. Anytime I am not giving the Lord my time, I am wasting it.

Your children are precious and your time with them is relatively short. You may feel like it will never end right now, but it will–all too soon. You have your children for a season, and the time goes by quickly. Don’t waste this precious time. Seek the things of God with and for your children.

This month, make an effort to lay your time and the time you have with your children before the Lord. Let Him show you His priorities. Seek to follow His leading. Then you will not care that a minute ago is far away. You will live knowing you are pleasing the Lord.

P.S. When my friend shared her favorite saying, I did three things: First, I repented. Second, I asked God to make me aware of my “time wasters” and to give me a plan to combat them. Third, I did the toughest of the three: I obeyed!

Hiding God’s Word in Our Hearts

- By Cris Loop

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11 (KJV)

One of the most fruitful things we can do with our children is to show them how we hide God’s Word in our hearts. I’m not talking about memorizing Scripture to get a sticker or pin, to win a contest, or to be full of impressive head knowledge–I’m talking about memorizing God’s Word so we are changed! Hiding God’s Word in our hearts involves walking God’s Word–letting it pierce our hearts so we know how to love and please God.

I know for the first several years of my children’s lives, I didn’t really understand God’s great love for me and for all mankind enough to pass it onto my children. I read the Scriptures diligently to my children, but it didn’t really change my life or theirs on the inside–it just gave us more external rules to follow. I was stuck in a what-do-I-need-to-do-to-please-God mentality, and blinded to the transforming power of God’s Word in our lives. I honored the Word of God; I read, taught, and memorized the Word of God; but I didn’t really hide the word of God in my heart so I would not sin against God. I didn’t read as though God was speaking to me.

I pray this coming month–the beginning of a new year–you will teach your children not only the importance of reading God’s Word, but also the importance of really hiding Scripture in their hearts and letting it transform their lives from the inside. When you read the Bible, don’t look at it as more external rules to follow, but rather as the words of God Himself to guide you–and show you Himself! Teach your children to hide God’s Word in their hearts by first letting God’s Word dwell richly within you–letting it transform your heart, your thinking, and your life.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16 (KJV)

Being Different

- By Cris Loop

Training our children to love the Lord above all else starts with loving the Lord above all else in our own lives. This is not easy. Listening to the Lord can sometimes mean being different. Knowing we cannot serve two masters, it takes a conscience effort to love and serve the Lord when it means going against what other Christians are doing.

Years ago, I was tempted to keep my children in public or Christian schools. I wondered if I was really hearing from the Lord when He told me to homeschool them–after all, the Christians in my church didn’t see why I would go against the current system and want to teach my children at home. The children in the Christian schools started their day with prayer and had Christian teachers–surely I was overreacting in feeling God wanted me to teach my own children. It is hard being different.

Today, many will affirm your decision to homeschool, but there will most likely be other things God is calling you to do that others will not understand. Don’t be afraid to question the status quo–to take your decisions to the Lord and His Word and walk forward in His truth, even if it’s not what “everyone” does.

Please don’t take me wrong. We shouldn’t go around just insisting on our own way or bucking God-given authority. But we do need to be careful about just assuming that simply because everyone else is doing something, we ought to do it too. We need to purposefully take things to the Lord and let Him show us what He wants for us–and for our children. By doing so, we’ll be setting an example for our children to listen to and love the Lord and His Word above all else.

Character Training

- By Cris Loop

One of the number one reasons people homeschool is because they are concerned their children become people of character. I applaud this. It is wonderful to hear people talking about “character training,” but I often wonder if anyone is as confused about what character training is as I was?

I thought reading the Bible to my children, telling them what was in the Bible, and stressing right and wrong behavior was “character training.” I did this for several years, with some appearance of success, but in my heart I felt defeated. It was like climbing a mountain uphill ALL the time. I would tell my children the principles of the Bible, but they didn’t seem to really stick.

The Lord gradually showed me I was fighting a losing battle. All my efforts were useless. I was not “character training” my children; I was merely teaching them to modify their behavior. One verse that confirmed the battle I was feeling is “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). I could try to erase the “spots” on my children, but unless they were washed in the blood of Christ, it was all in vain.

Knowing this was a huge relief to me. I realized that instead of trying to fix my children’s character, Jesus had given them His perfect character. I just needed to train them to run to Him. I still needed to discipline my children and tell them the principles of the Bible. But now, instead of focusing on their behavior (and failures), I could point my children to the only hope for mankind–Jesus Christ. I could help them understand they NEVER had any excuses because His strength and character was offered to them.

I also discovered to my surprise that I was the one who needed the most character training of all. You see, as a parent, I was to reflect God’s character in the way I disciplined and raised my children–to discipline out of love for their good. I had to admit that in many ways I wasn’t reflecting God’s character at all. And, just like my children couldn’t change their character through good behavior, I knew I couldn’t really change myself either.

As I began focusing my own heart on God’s character and reflecting on His goodness, love, and kindness towards me, I realized God could do what I could not. He could help me stay calm–even when the kids messed up royally–if I’d but respond to His love. And He could also give me the courage to apologize to my children and be real before them, thereby showing them how to run to God for forgiveness and cling to Christ’s righteousness instead of my own.

Bottom line, in character training our children we need to remember the gospel. There’s no good in us–or our children. But Christ is–and always will be–our hope of glory. We’re not called to transform our children or ourselves, that is God’s job; we’re only called to focus our eyes on Christ–to be in His Word and learning from Him, that we might respond to His love and the prodding of His Spirit. We’ll reflect His character when we realize the depths of our own hopelessness–and the fact that He has given us His Spirit and strength, so we are without excuse. And as we respond to God ourselves, we’ll see clearer how to discipline our children in a way that doesn’t put a burden on them to somehow attain the perfect character, but rather points them to Christ, who gives us His perfect character.

This month, I’d encourage you to focus on God’s character and the gospel message. Meditate on His Word, looking in it not for more rules to follow or lecture your children about, but for glimpses into God’s character and incredible salvation. And ask Him to show you how to point your children to Him and His salvation as you discipline them.

Asking Why, Part 2

- By Cris Loop

Why are you homeschooling? Believe it or not, this was my husband’s answer to a question I had on how to council a mom on whether or not to participate in a certain church program. I thought it a rather strange answer at first, but as I began to answer the question, I was able to see that the same principles that led me to homeschool applied to this church program. It became clear that I needed to ask this mom why she was homeschooling, so she could see the Lord’s direction on this church program.

My husband’s question got me to thinking how helpful knowing “why” we are homeschooling can be. Remembering the reasons for what we’re doing helps us stay on track, and helps us evaluate the host of other opportunities that come up.

This month, I’d like to encourage you to ask “why”–not “why is this happening to me,” but “why am I doing this?” Ask God to show you your heart on the various things and activities in your life. Start by remembering why you are homeschooling. Take the question to the Lord, then write out your answer so you won’t forget. When a new challenge presents itself, ask yourself “why am I doing this?” Remind yourself of why you are homeschooling, and see if those principles can’t help you sort out this new challenge.

Asking Why

- By Cris Loop

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. As we leafed through photo albums and remembered God’s faithfulness over the years, I was reminded of the power and blessing that can come from asking “why.”

Why were we homeschooling? Why were we participating in this activity? Why were we studying this subject? Why were we so worried about this decision? Asking why often helps us hear the Lord’s voice. Sometimes it shows us an area where we have gotten off track…other times it gives us courage and confidence to continue in what the Lord has shown us. Either way, asking why can help us avoid “automatic pilot” and keep fresh and invigorated in our homeschool.

By “automatic pilot,” I mean doing things without really thinking them through–just doing them because they seem the default thing to do. It is SO easy to just begin doing things because they’re routine. Automatic pilot seems to make things easy, but it can get us sidetracked and relying on ourselves instead of the Lord. Not only that, but it can rob us of our vision and the joy of living in the remembrance that we are God’s beloved children and have the opportunity to know and see Him in all we do. If we’re just doing things to do them, than we’ve lost sight of why we’re here on this earth–to know and worship our Creator. It’s important to keep asking why–to remember our purpose here on earth and keep our ears open to hearing God’s voice.

This month, I want to encourage you to ask yourself why you’re doing the things your doing. Remember the goal, and renew your vision.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Proverbs 29:18 KJV

Dealing with the Piles

- By Cris Loop

Have you ever noticed how quickly things tend to pile up if we’re not careful? We put off sorting the mail until “a little later,” and before we know it, we have a huge mound of paperwork to tackle. We take a week or two off weeding, and we find ourselves facing a jungle. We put off dealing with child-training issues, and before we know it they’ve escalated to unbearable levels. We plan on watching our food intake “next week,” then grow overwhelmed by the mounting numbers on the scale.

Looking at the things we’ve let pile up can be overwhelming and discouraging. It seems impossible sometimes to deal with the things we’ve allowed to pile up–to start afresh when things have gotten out of hand.

Recently, the Lord has been giving me the strength (and courage) to deal with a few of my piles by reminding me I am a new creature. God has given me His strength and spirit, which means I have no excuses not to be faithful with what He has entrusted to my care.

While I understand that sometimes we need to let some things pile up because God has called us to work on other things at the time, for me, they were mounting because I was putting off the things God had given me to do. I can’t tell you how freeing it has been to begin working on the things I know God has called me to do, whether or not I “feel” like doing them at the moment. God is always faithful to supply the strength and energy I need when I’m willing to be obedient.

This month, I would like to encourage you to deal with whatever may be piling up in your life. As God’s dear child, you don’t have to live enslaved. First, ask God to show you the areas you need to deal with, then ask Him for a plan on how to attack them. Don’t expect everything to get dealt with in one day–try maybe focusing on one area for 15 minutes each day. Don’t let the piles enslave you–let the knowledge that you are a new creature transform even the daily details of life.

We Do Not Know What to Do

So often as parents we simply don’t know what to do. How do we help our child in a weak area, or develop his strengths? It seems like we are often clueless.

Many years ago, King Jehoshaphat faced a situation where he didn’t know what to do. He was being attacked, and he knew he had no might on his own. So what did he do? He confessed his inability and sought the Lord.

“For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” 2 Chronicles 20:12b (KJV)

Like King Jehoshaphat, we have no might against the great company coming against us each day. We simply can’t handle the situations that arise appropriately on our own. But praise God! We don’t have to pretend that we can, nor do we have to get overwhelmed by the situation. We simply need to put our eyes upon God. He IS totally trustworthy, and will show you the way.

Playing to One Audience

- By Cris Loop

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t please anyone no matter how hard you were trying to please everyone? Or have you ever worked hard to make someone happy and failed? Just making dinner at my house can be a challenge if I’m trying to please my family’s varying tastes. You simply can’t please everyone all the time. And sometimes you can’t please anyone! Rather than experiencing the joy of being a servant, you end up frustrated, feeling like a failure.

I have good news for you. You don’t have to run around madly trying to please everyone. Yes, God calls us to put others first–but He doesn’t call us to put our eyes on others. We’re to look to Him, to trust Him, and to serve Him.

As a young mom, I used to drive myself crazy trying to look like the perfect mom to everyone around me. My desire to please everyone was blinding me to what I really needed to be doing with my children.

I can’t describe the freedom that came when I finally just surrendered what others thought of us. I gave up being the perfect mom and getting it all right. And you know what? I discovered that, as I became real before my children, God could begin to work in their hearts–and mine. Trusting and depending on Him began to replace vainly striving to follow everyone’s rules and meet everyone’s standards.

My tip to you this month is to remember that you are God’s servant. Surrender what others think of you and your children. Give up the “perfect” family dream. Focus instead on getting to know your Master, Father, and dearest Friend. Rest in His unmerited, never-ending love. Walk by His Spirit, leaning on Him and trusting Him to guide your steps–He will!

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 (KJV)

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit… Galatians 5:16a (KJV)

Home School Tip: A Dry Perspective

- By Cris Loop

Ever have days where it seems that miscommunications abound? Someone says something and you take it totally wrong. Or you say something and you can tell the person doesn’t understand what you mean. Communication is important–especially communication to our children. And we often forget communication is more than words. Homeschooling is an opportunity to minute by minute communicate God’s love to your children, and problems can really mount if we have “dry” perspective–a perspective not watered by God’s Word.

Today alone I could have miscommunicated to at least three people I know and would have mistaken their words/actions if I had not taken each circumstance to the Lord.

With a dry perspective, it is easy to take offense, become gripped with fear, allow guilt to drive you, and be unable to see a situation clearly. When you read God’s Word and abide in Him, things won’t always be perfect, but you’ll be able to think on the things of God more clearly–and evaluate your circumstances and your dealings with your children from a godly perspective.

Don’t settle for a dry perspective. Seek God for ways to keep His Word in the forefront of your mind. Ask God to make His Word come alive to you–He will. Be willing to be challenged by it and to change. Through His Word and by seeking Him in prayer, let God give you His perspective on yourself, your children, and the situations that arise, then act on what He shows you. May the Lord bless you as you seek Him!

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:11 (KJV)

Homeschool Tip: Live in Hope

-- By Cris Loop

The house is a mess. Your child is doing the same thing you’ve already punished him for ten times this week. You hardly feel like the “perfect” mom you long to be. Discouragement sets in, and you just want to give up. If only your child would change…

When these discouraging thoughts grip you, stop and remember that you aren’t and never will be that perfect mom…and your children won’t ever be perfect either. Rejoice in the knowledge that Christ’s robe of righteousness surrounds you. Your standing with Him has nothing to do with your performance. You are His child because He has made you His child. And the same is true for your children.

After allowing the truth that only God is righteous set in, ask God to show you the things that HE wants to change. They may be different than what you had in mind. Earnestly seek His strength and wisdom. Let Him start by transforming YOUR heart. Surrender to Him all your expectations and begin thanking Him for the challenges He brings your way. Remember that you can’t change yourself, your spouse, or your children—but that God can and will if you surrender and seek Him. But be aware: His changes may not be the same ones you had in mind. His goal is for you and your family to know Him, not to be the “perfect” family.

This month, my prayer for you is that you will remember God is in the business of changing us into the likeness of His Son. Surrender, seek Him, and let Him work—there is hope because God is faithful—Jesus has come—and He is coming again!

Homeschool Tip: Walk the Word

-- By Cris Loop

Every month, I try to share something that might help you in your Christian walk as you homeschool your children. This month, I was reminded of a life-changing challenge that an older woman gave me years ago. This dear woman suggested that my children and I, instead of simply memorizing numerous scripture verses, take one scripture and work on applying it in our lives in addition to memorizing it. What a difference doing this made in how we lived!

As you celebrate Thanksgiving and begin preparing for Christmas, I would like to offer you this same challenge: take one verse a week—or even a month—and WALK the verse. Don’t move on to memorizing another verse until God has brought understanding to the verse in a real and practical way. Be prepared—walking a verse may require change on your part. There were many times as we asked God to help us apply a verse that I would have to repent and allow God to change my thinking to be more in line with His. One other suggestion—keep your eyes open as you read the scriptures for other verses that relate to the one you’re trying to apply. Point out how the various verses all echo the gospel message. Looking at God’s Word this way is one way to keep your heart soft and your attitude grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John :4

Homeschool Tip: Distractions

-- By Cris Loop

Ever know you have a task you need to do and just can’t seem to get to it? For one reason or another, try as you may, something always gets in the way? Or have you ever had a child that, no matter what you do, simply wouldn’t learn his lesson? Or a situation that frustrated you or that you couldn’t figure out?

It’s easy to let the frustrations of life become distractions, taking our eyes away from the Lord and robbing us of the joy He longs to give us. We need to remember that we’re in a daily battle. The “ruler of this world” is constantly seeking to distract us, robbing us of the joy we have in Christ. But we don’t have to be distracted! The very situations that tend to distract can serve as reminders to us that we’re in a war and need to constantly equip ourselves for battle.

After all, it is very easy to forget the daily battle and just keep plowing along our merry old way. Though we know that the enemy is constantly attacking, we forget to put on the armor of God like we should. We live as though we don’t really believe we are in a battle. Complacency sets in or, worse, we fall back and start thinking like we did before the Lord showed us His new, glorious way.

Parents, I know that you know intellectually that you are in spiritual warfare, but are you fighting or are you retreating? The frustrations you face—whatever they may be—are part of a much bigger battle. Make sure you’re spending time in God’s Word, meditating on who He is, and praying throughout your day so that you’ll be able to fight the good fight. Put on the armor of God by reading His Word. Remember that you are in a battle and that you need His Word as much and as regularly as your body needs water. Replenish and refresh yourself often! Let God use the frustrations of every situation to be a blessing instead of a distraction in your life. Fight the good fight–in Christ.

Homeschool Tip: Homeschool Wishes

--By Cris Loop

How many times a day do you find yourself wishing something would change? Do you wish your children were out of diapers, that Johnny would learn his math facts, that Jane would cooperate better, and that Jeremy wouldn’t make so much noise? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every aspect of your homeschooling went according to your master plan?

It’s very easy to get lost in our “wishes,” thereby missing out on the things God has for us within the very things God has placed in our lives. This September, as everyone has been heading back to school, I’ve found myself wishing that I had younger children to homeschool. I know it may sound crazy to some of you, but I really miss being outside exploring God’s creation and watching my children learn new things. To make things worse, the beautiful weather lately has been beckoning me. The realization that the days of schooling young children were gone forever has been hitting me hard this year. Oh, how I wished I could go back to those simple times!

Wait a minute. I don’t need to waste my time wishing for younger children and years gone by. I have a choice: I can feel sorry for myself or I can delight myself in the Lord and this new season of life He has blessed me with.

Rather than wishing for things that can not happen, I have been making a conscience effort to delight myself in the Lord. As a result, I have been able to see and rejoice in things that previously I would have taken for granted. For example, this past week, God gave me with an afternoon with two precious children! Together, my two new companions and I had the joy of being out in God’s creation learning how to play Frisbee golf. Not only did we learn how to throw a little piece of plastic, but we also got to know one another and praise the Lord together. It was such a gift from heaven for me—a reminder that my Father knows what I really need. I recognize now that the ability to go back in time to when my children were young wouldn’t really satisfy the true desire of my heart. Only delighting in God and what He has for me today brings true satisfaction.

I’d encourage you this month to remember that it’s knowing God and delighting in what He has given you today that can really meet those desires of your heart. Don’t fool yourself: Johnny knowing his math facts and Jane cooperating better wouldn’t really bring you the satisfaction you think. If we were to get the things we think we desire, we’d find that there will always be something else that we would wish we could change—unless, of course, we choose to stop wishing and just start delighting in our Lord.

Now please don’t take me wrong. Delighting in the Lord doesn’t mean ignoring the situation or failing to administer disciplinary action. If Jane isn’t cooperating and Jeremy is making too much noise, you may need to examine how you’re dealing with them and training them. But do it from the perspective of, “Lord, thank you for giving me this opportunity to depend on you to show me how to train these children,” instead of from the perspective of, “If only my children would change, my life would be better!” My prayer for you this month is that you would keep your heart bowed before the Lord and delight in being the mom He’s called you to be in whatever situations He brings your way.

Homeschool Tip: Serving the Lord

--By Cris Loop

“So what are you ‘doing’ to serve the Lord?”

When this question was thrown to me years ago, I wanted to duck, run, and/or hide! What did they mean, “What was I ‘doing’ to serve the Lord?” I was homeschooling my children!

Just by homeschooling, I was putting my house in order, training my children for God’s kingdom, and proclaiming to those around me that God’s ways are trustworthy and different from the world’s ways. I was endeavoring to live a quiet, godly life like the Bible urges us to live.

“We urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands.” 1 Thessalonians 4:10b, 11 NKJV

Even so, whenever someone would ask the question, I began asking the Lord to show me if I was really serving Him or myself. I have discovered that it is easy, even while “doing” everything correctly in homeschooling, to end up serving my own ideas or this world’s ideas instead of truly serving God.

I know the people asking me what I was “doing” wanted tangible proof of my service. But God’s idea of service is “being.” Of course, on a practical level, in the midst of “being” we are always making choices on what to “do.” But according to the Scriptures, we need our minds transformed to do God’s will (Romans 12). Although we tend to focus on the outside, true service starts on the inside. It can be summarized by knowing, loving, and obeying God. I found that I needed to keep coming back to the Lord to see if I was really doing what I needed to serve the Lord—if I was really coming before Him and surrendering/seeking Him at each turn.

Parents, when someone asks you what you are doing to serve the Lord, stop and examine your heart. Are you continuing in the same Spirit that led you to homeschool? Are you seeking God for His wisdom in His Word on a daily basis and allowing Him to transform your mind so that you CAN serve Him? If so, you don’t need to duck, run, or hide! Know that you are serving God, even if you don’t have anything tangible to show for it. However, if you are simply bringing the world’s ideas into your home, you might want to go before the Lord and ask Him to make things different. Ask God to show you the difference–He will! He longs to change and use us as much as He can!

My prayer for you this month is that you won’t get caught up in or distracted from truly serving God through homeschooling. Even things we might call “serving the Lord” can distract us if we let them. God has given you a ministry in your home—don’t miss it! Before the new school year begins, my tip is to evaluate ALL your activities and make sure that you’re not so committed “serving” that you’re missing the greatest ministry God has given you. Make sure there is time to get to know God so that you CAN serve Him everyday through homeschooling.

Homeschool Tip: Are You Using Your Map?

--By Cris Loop

This month, my children surprised me and took me on a trip. As I was heading out the door, my husband asked if we had a map. I replied that no, we didn’t, but that was okay. I’d traveled these highways many times before. Even though I had never visited two of the destinations we had planned, I assured him that my scribbled directions would be enough. His pleading face compelled me to find a place for the atlas he handed me, but I thought to myself, What did we need a map for? I know the basic way by heart. Besides, God has always seen to it that we arrive safely wherever we’ve traveled.

The trip on the way to each destination went wonderfully! We were having so much fun we didn’t even think about directions. Miraculously, I made each turn just in time.

Coming home, though, was a different story. I chose to take a short cut. I had looked at my friend’s map the night before we left and jotted down a few turns. The short cut only lasted a couple of hours, so I would get to familiar territory quickly. I didn’t think there would be any problems.

Once on the road, I began to realize my folly. A few wrong turns rattled me just a little, but I relaxed, knowing we we were now in familiar territory. Then came the predominately stopped traffic. Suddenly I was REALLY wishing that I had brought a more detailed map. I was so thankful for the atlas, but it didn’t give me the details I really needed.

If I had had a more detailed map, I wouldn’t have gotten off track or even wondered if we were going the right way. I could have kept looking down at my map to make sure that I was still on target. And, when I ran into the stopped traffic, I would have been able to go a different way more easily.

I wondered, could I be doing spiritually what I had done on my trip? Could I be thinking that I can “find my way” without having a map to consult because I had been there before? God’s Word is like a map, giving us direction for each day. Could I be relying on the Lord and my knowledge of Him, reading His Word daily, but not really letting His Word give me the direction and comfort I need? My whole map incident got me to thinking about how easy it is to get off track spiritually, especially when we know God’s Word well.

As you “drive” through your days this month, stop frequently and consult your map. Even if you have done the same thing before, question the things you’re doing and hold them up to the Word of God. It is so easy to get confident in our relationship with God and/or our past experiences that we forget to consult His Word for today’s answers. We might read the Word, but are we letting it speak to us? Don’t forget that it’s through His Word that God speaks to us, changing our hearts and showing us His direction for us. We continually need to come before His Word like we would a trustworthy map, checking out the “road signs” we see and ascertaining if we’re still on the correct course.

I’m leaving on another road trip this week. This time, you can be sure that I’ve got a map!

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105 KV

Homeschool Tip: Dreaming of Perfection

--By Cris Loop

When my children were younger and I was first homeschooling, I thought we were doing everything right. You couldn’t convince me that God was not smiling down upon all the work that “I” was doing! I had given up everything to homeschool. I had this perception that God would say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21 KJV)! ” This perception kept me striving more and more in my homeschool endeavors. Without even realizing it, I had somehow developed a dream that we would one day be the perfect little family like the families on the magazine covers. How I could have ever thought we would be perfect is beyond me, and yet that dream drove me forward.

God was so gracious to me. Not only did He show me that all I was doing was wasted effort because it was not done in Him, but he also showed me that my dream to be a perfect family (the way I was looking at it) was not even in accordance to His will! The only way we would be a perfect family was through His Son. I realized that we were actually grieving God’s heart when we rejected this truth and tried to become perfect on our own. We could be perfect NOW! The day I believed and received the gift of life from God, I became righteous in His eyes. Jesus is perfect, and He has given me His robe of righteousness. God’s reality is marvelous–even when our thoughts and feelings are faulty. What a relief! What a difference it makes to let Jesus be your Redeemer, Righteousness, and Ruler in this practical way!

Recently God showed me again how easy it is to let my thoughts and ideas get carried away and misplaced. It’s so easy to begin looking for perfection (in all the wrong places) and building dreams of how wonderful we will be. Although I felt like a complete idiot when I realized that I had once again fallen into the “perfect” trap, God is gracious. He is reminding me that “love will cover a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8 NKJV)” and is teaching me to hand over my thoughts to Him instead of fostering them.

This month don’t let your dreams, desires, good plans, excuses, or ANYTHING else get in the way of your relationship with the Lord–drink His truth, wear His robe, and watch the difference it makes! Remember that you don’t have to strive to be the perfect family–if you are Christ’s, then you are already perfect. Rather than striving to be perfect, spend your time rejoicing in God’s perfection and seeking to know and trust Him more. Know that He is in the process of transforming you–not into a perfect being that everyone can admire–but into a humble vessel through which He can shine. Just keep looking to Him and letting Him be your all.

Homeschool Tip: Ship in the Sea or Sea in the Ship?

–By Cris Loop

“It is appropriate for a ship to be in the sea, the danger comes when the sea is in the ship. ” Marv Rosenthal.

The above quote is one I have framed so I can read it over and over again. Although we often forget it, we live in a fallen, sinful world. Even though we are homeschooling our children and doing all we can to protect them from the world, they are still going to be exposed to this world’s thinking and philosophy. Just like a ship resides in the ocean, we and our children live in this fallen world. Let’s face it we really can’t escape the world, can we?

There is no danger for a ship to be in the sea. The danger comes when we allow the sea into the ship. As God-fearing parents, one of our goals is to keep the sea out of our children’s ships : ). Here are a few “ship keeping” ideas.

1. Start by making sure your own ship is water proof. Ask God to show you any of the worldly thinking that you may have adopted (it’s amazing how easily it pours in!). As He shows you “water leaks” in your thinking, repent and repair them with the truth of God’s Word. Continually coat your heart with His Word and fortify your mind with the truth of who He is.

2. Teach your children how to “repair the holes and mop the decks.” Everywhere we go, worldly thinking splashes on our decks and leaks in any crevice it can find. We are constantly bombarded with the world’s ideas on health, education, wealth, science, etc. And it’s so easy to let the world’s ideas affect us! For example, we often see others doing things and think, Okay that looks like it is working, perhaps we can give it a try. Before we know it, we’ve gone and done what others are doing instead of seeking God for what He wants us to do. Parents, we need to continually stop and hold our thinking up to God’s Word!

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Let your children see you seeking to be transformed by God and His Word. Then point out to your children the worldly thinking that they encounter/believe and teach them how to “repair the leak” with the truth from God’s Word. My prayer for you this month is that you would daily ask God to help you keep the sea out of your ships.

Homeschool Tip: Delight in Each Minute

–By Cris and Katherine Loop

As my mother and I walked into the mall yesterday, we talked about some of the adjustments she had to go through after we graduated. “I had to start remembering where my own car was parked,” she said with a smile as we reminisced about how my brother used to keep track of those sort of details for her.

I know sometimes it may seem like homeschooling will never end–that you will never finish teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. But I’d encourage you this month to delight in this season of life that God has given you. Don’t waste the present by wishing for the future that will come soon enough all on its own. Know that the time you have now with your children is preciously short–make it a time that you can look back on with joy knowing you delighted in every minute.

Homeschool Tip: Experts?

–By Cris Loop

Have you ever felt inadequate to teach your children? If so, join the club! We all have subjects that we don’t know or feel like we can teach.

But what do you do when faced with your inadequacy? Do you ask the Lord to help you find a class run by an “expert” in the subject? I know that’s a very common response. But instead of immediately looking for outside help, I’d like to encourage you to ask the Lord what to do with an open mind. Don’t just assume you need someone else to teach the subject–God may want to use your very inability to demonstrate what a wonderful teacher He makes.

When Katherine entered high school years ago, I was more than a little concerned. God had carried us this far, but now we were getting into things that counted. How could I possibly teach her all the things she needed to know? She desperately wanted to learn Spanish, but beyond ¿Como está usted? (how are you) and gracious (thank you), I don’t speak Spanish. I could have easily rushed to enroll her in a class so an “expert” could teach her, but I didn’t. Instead, I got to watch God Himself teach my daughter her Spanish. She learned it on her own using a variety of different resources. And God Himself provided opportunities for her to speak with others and get the oral practice she needed.

While Katherine was recently in Spain, people were amazed at how well she spoke Spanish. Know that God can teach your children what they want/need to know if you will ask and depend on Him.

I always smiled when people would find out that my children were homeschooled and exclaim, “Wow, your mom must be smart!” I trained my children to respond with the truth–”Oh, my mom’s not really smart. She just knows the smartest person in the whole world–God. He helps her.”

God doesn’t expect you to know everything that your children will learn. He expects you to trust Him to be the teacher. As you diligently impart what you can and seek His help, God will show you and your children what you/they need to know. Very rarely have I seen the Lord send us outside our home to meet a learning need.

All too often we are quick to run and find others that are considered experts to teach our children subjects that we find difficult. Sometimes it is so easy to sign them up for this class and that class. We don’t realize that we’re losing valuable training time in going from one thing to another and missing out on letting God teach our children through our inabilities.

I’m not saying you should never enroll your child in a class. But don’t buy into the world’s lie that you need to be an expert in a field in order to teach it. Know that God can teach your children what they need to know through you if He chooses.

I would like to challenge you to look at your schedule this year as well as at your plans for next year. Don’t rely on the “experts” any more than you do on yourself. Rely on the Lord–only He can teach your children perfectly–and He is a GOOD teacher!

Homeschool Tip: ALL Things

–By Cris Loop

Things don’t always go according to our plans in a homeschool day, do they? It doesn’t take much to throw off our schedule, no matter how carefully we pray and plan. A knock on the door, a phone call, sickness, arguing, unpleasant family interactions, a little one’s needs, uncooperative spirits, plumbing problems, meal preparations, appliance failures, etc—all sorts of interruptions can keep us from our plans. And sometimes these interruptions blossom into major irritations.

Interruptions can really discourage us if we let them. But we don’t have to let these interruptions dishearten us. We have a choice to respond in truth instead, remembering that God has allowed these things into our lives for a purpose and that nothing touches us without first be sifted through our Lord’s hands.

Next time things don’t go your way and you are thinking, “Ahhh…not this!” try to remember the truth that God works all things together according to His purpose and that no plans of His can be thwarted. Believe it or not, your response to these irritations is a very important part of home education. When you acknowledge the Lord, He can teach you and your children through these interruptions. God is waiting to speak to you in all things—not just the pleasant things. These irritations are part of His curriculum plan ☺.


Priority Check

By Cris Loop

It’s January again–time to get back to school, to tie ourselves to grading papers and explaining math problems, and to keep those New Year’s resolutions we made to be more diligent in our homeschooling endeavors! But before you head back to the grind, sit back and take stock of your priorities. Are your priorities right now God’s priorities? Is He most concerned that your children know all their English, history, and math facts, or that they see Him in all they do? Is He most concerned that your children behave properly, or that they know and rely on His unmerited love?

While diligence can be a good thing, we need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of homeschooling’s true purpose: to know and serve God and raise our children in Him. Keep this goal in mind as you wade through your pile of papers this week, and ask God how to practically go about schooling with eternity in view.

Not only do we need to keep our goal in mind, but we need to continually evaluate how we’re practically striving towards this goal in what we do with our children. I was struck recently with how easy it is to have the correct goal yet strive towards that goal in the wrong way. Consider the Pharisees. They had a godly goal–they wanted to serve and please God. Yet they went about accomplishing that goal on their own. Their hearts became proud as they placed their confidence in themselves and what they were doing.

We can easily have the right goal in our homeschooling but strive towards that goal on our own strength, thus missing out on seeing Christ and abiding in His love. Just like the Pharisees tried to make God’s Word into a Law, we can fall into trying to find a rule or formula that we can follow in our homeschooling.

So what can we do? Well, think about what the Pharisees should have done. What would have happened had they realized that the Law, instead of being a way to please God, was an expression of God’s love and care to them, a revelation of His character, and a constant reminder that they needed Him to save them? They might have still offered all the same sacrifices and celebrated the same feasts, but with such a different heart! Our heart makes all the difference in the world.

Dear mothers, don’t forget that God’s love for you isn’t dependent on what you do or don’t do. You don’t have to be the perfect Mom or do your homeschooling perfectly–in fact, you never can. Keep your eyes on the goal–knowing Christ. Strive, not to “get it right” or “get it all done,” but to do what you do in Him.

Homeschool Tip: Have To .vs. Get To

By Cris Loop

This month, we have been looking at what it means to serve and love one another in light of Hebrews 10:19-25:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (NASB)

God has made a way for us to serve and love in a new and living way, and His faithfulness enables us to do things differently. I’ve been asking myself: Am I living in the new way? Am I serving and loving in God’s strength?

Serving is like all other areas of the Christian walk–a matter of the heart. Things may look the same on the outside, but there is a vast and eternal difference in the heart when we’re serving in God’s strength verses our own.

This heart difference can be seen in these two phrases: “have to” and “get to.” Think about it–because God has done everything for us we don’t really “have to” do anything. Yet, everyday, we “get to” do something. And what we do is important to God. How we respond to Him matters. God tells us that our faith and deeds should work together.

Recently I found myself asking the Lord, “do I have to?”, and He reminded me of all the times my children had asked me, “do we have to do school today?” And of my response, “No, you get to do it!” God was saying I don’t “have to”– I “get to”! What a difference this thought has made for me! Although God is bringing some difficult things into my life, I am amazed at how much joy I have knowing I get to do what God has placed before me! It is still hard, I sometimes think in terms of have to, and I do not always walk it right, but God is slowly helping me think in terms of get to.

This month instead of thinking, I have to __________(fill the blank), try thinking I get to _______! It is sure to make a difference for you and your children!

Working with All Your Strength

By Cris Loop

I have been realizing just how easy it is to strive in our own strength to accomplish the tasks God has given us. This month, I had been given a job to do that was above my ability. Rather than completely trusting God to get me though the task by waiting on Him and His timing, I got caught up in the job and getting it done well to the point that I forgot to even question the things I was doing.

At first things seemed to be going well. I got some direction and was on my way. I quickly gained a little confidence that “I” could do this. Within a few weeks however, one thing lead to another and my frustration mounted. I knew I could not do this alone; I needed help. I sought help from others, but I needed more than what they could provide. I needed help from God. Although I knew this intellectually, in reality I had fallen into striving in my own effort and strength. I soon became worn-out and frustrated.

When I was finally at the end of myself, I discovered that God had a way of escape figured out for me all along. His way of escape wasn’t just a way out of the task, but rather a way out of the worldly mind set I had slipped into. All along, He had just been waiting for me to trust Him.

What about you? God has given you the most important job in the whole world–the care and training of His child(ren). It is a job that is way above your ability, and I know that you want to do it well. Are you seeking God’s help to get you through your homeschooling or are you striving in your own effort?

Daily you face the same temptation I faced to complete your job in your own strength. But you can’t do it in on your own, nor can others give you the strength you need. Only God can give you the ability to perform your task—He’s simply waiting for you to let Him.

Sometimes it is very hard to see the difference between trust in God and self effort. They often look the same outwardly–the difference lies in the heart. Are our hearts depending on God or simply consumed with getting the tasks done? Are we keeping our hearts sensitive by reading God’s Word and praying?

We will always face the temptation to walk in our own strength, especially when we have a lot we need to get done. But the Bible assures us that,

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Remember this month that God has a way of escape for you. His way of escape isn’t always a way out of the situation, but a way to help you out of the worldly mind sets and self-reliance we so quickly fall into. Of course, sometimes He does want us to change our circumstances too. If we’ve over committed ourselves or are spending our energies in the wrong directions, we may need to change. But the point is, we will only know what to change as we first let God change us and choose to depend on Him once again.

Don’t waste as much time as I did lost in your own self-effort. Stop and seek God’s help, evaluate what is important, and take the way of escape God provides. Choose to cease from self-effort/reliance in your homeschooling and let God provide for you. His faithfulness is truly marvelous!

The Three “R’s”

By Cris Loop

Did you realize that there are three R’s far more important than reading, writing, and arithmetic? Over and over again the Bible teaches us to remember God and His truths, to respond to His love, and to receive His forgiveness and strength. Teaching our children these three R’s is the most important aspect of our homeschooling.

Let’s briefly take a look at these important “R’s” and how they apply to us as parents.

Remember—

Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome. Nehemiah 4:14b

As I have been recording the Torah (in English) on CD for a Jewish friend of mine, I have been struck this month by our natural tendency to forget. How quickly and easily we, like the Israelites, forget that God is on the throne of our lives, leading, guiding and directing us through each and every day!

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12

Not only do we need to remember God’s greatness, but we also need to remember our incredible need for Jesus. We need to recognize that we are, and always will be, truly hopeless apart from Christ.

Most of us parents don’t have any difficulty reminding our children that they need Jesus. But are we willing to remember and admit how much we need Him? Our children need to see us admitting our need and remembering our God throughout our day.

Respond—

One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. Acts 16:14

Our job in both the salvation and transformation process is to co-operate with God. We need to respond to God’s greatness and love in belief and trust.

The first step toward teaching our children to respond to God’s love is to make sure that we continue to respond to Him each day. It is the simple response of trust that will mold your character and lay an example for your children to follow. Although your children must choose to respond to God for themselves, they will learn how to do this by watching you.

Receive—

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7

As we respond to the Lord in humility and trust, God can pour into our hearts His strength, wisdom, and patience. What a beautiful thought!

******

Remember, respond, and receive—these three “R’s” form the basis of our Christian walk. As parents, we have the privilege of teaching these “R’s” to our children by first making sure that we are remembering, responding, and receiving ourselves.

My prayer for you this month is that as you teach your children the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, you wouldn’t forget the three more important “R’s.” May you continually remember God’s greatness, respond to Him, and receive from Him the strength you need.

If Only…

By Cris Loop

If only I could sleep…if only my youngest would stop crying…if only the baby were potty trained…if only my children could dress themselves…if only the little one could read…if only…if only I had more time…if only my children could do their work independently…if only they were older…if only I had… … .

It’s amazing how often we fool ourselves into thinking that “if only” something were different, we’d be happier.

The other day when I caught myself roaming to the land of “if only” I remembered what I had just read about the Israelites in 1 Corinthian’s 10:10:

“And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.”

Just what had the Israelite’s said when they grumbled? If only!

If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:2

God called the Israelite’s “if only” complaint grumbling. He took it seriously, killing many.

When you find yourself thinking “if only” (or any other form of disguised complaint), I would encourage you to recognize the thought and, instead of ignoring it or letting it unconsciously affect how you live, reject it and choose to thank God for the situation you have right now. Remember that God has something that He is trying to work out in you right where He has you.

If only . . . . . we would stop complaining!

Ears to Hear

By Cris Loop

I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of listening to God each day. If our spiritual ears are clogged, we’ll miss out on God’s instructions and end up teaching our children from our own experience and wisdom (a scary thought!). Our past experiences can easily clog our spiritual ears if we let them. Whenever we finally figure something out, we tend to make a formula or a rule and follow that rather than really asking and listening to God for His input.

I know when I had my second child I thought, “This will be easy. I know what to do now. I have ‘figured out’ pregnancy, labor, and motherhood.” As many of you know, I had quite the surprise coming! My second child was completely different than my first. What worked for my first child did not work on this new individual. I eventually realized that God wanted me to give up on creating a “rule” and to depend on Him for fresh ideas.

Oh, but I like rules! I continually fight the temptation to take God’s principles, which never change, and turn them into a pat formula that works in every situation. But God is not about formulas. God wants us to keep asking, listening , growing, and changing in the present. Dear parents, are you really listening to God and asking for His wisdom? He is constantly trying to speak to you.

Many times God speaks in the most unlikely places. A few months ago a conversation I had challenged my thinking on several different issues that I didn’t even realize were a problem. The conversation wasn’t even on spiritual matters (or so I thought), yet God used the words spoken to show me some ways my current course of action needed an adjustment. It hit me like a two by four that God had been trying to tell me these things for months—why hadn’t I heard His voice?

I hadn’t heard because I had allowed my experiences and “formulas” to clog my hearing. Thinking that I had the right course of action “figured out,” I had stopped asking for God’s Wisdom. I’m thankful that, in His mercy, God didn’t give up on me. He has a way of using the strangest situations to get through to us, doesn’t He ☺?

Moms (& dads), don’t settle for your old thoughts and ways no matter how godly they seemed in the past or even seem to be in the present. Let God transform your thinking however He sees fit. Listen carefully to Him each day. Remember that God is continually trying to change each one of us. Seeing constant change happening in the physical world around us should remind us of this. How foolish we are to act like we have everything “figured out”!

This month, I would encourage you to stop trying to “figure it out” in your own understanding. Instead, ask God to really give you His perspective and wisdom, sit back, and listen. Your children are learning how to hear as they watch you—be sure to model healthy hearing.

“Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9

Changed by His Word

By Cris Loop

After I had been homeschooling my children for a few years, I was challenged to really “lay my life down” and submit myself completely to Lord with no expectations–to take God fully at His Word and trust Him with my life and the lives of my children. At the time, I thought I had done this already. After all, I was already homeschooling!

I had to discover that laying down my life and trusting God is NOT a one time thing. Beginning to homeschool is just one step in an ongoing process that changes how we live. You see, parents, we are being “homeschooled” too!

God has ever so much He wants to teach us. He wants to change us from the inside out. How? Through His Word.

After being challenged to really “lay down my life” each day, I began to question why and how we were doing things. I began taking decisions to the Word of God to see what it really had to say. As I did, God’s truth began to work on me from the inside out. I began trusting God for my sanctification instead of relying on my own efforts/understanding, or even on how I’d lived the day before. My children got to see me mess up all over the place, but they got to see that God and His Word, not mom, was perfect and the basis for our lives.

Our children don’t need perfect parents. In fact, if we’re claiming to be perfect in their eyes, then we’re failing. Our children need parents who are laying down their lives and allowing the Word of God to change them.

Here are some questions for you to think about this month:

  • Are you “laying down your life” because the Word of God is the basis for your life? Or is a desire/expectation (even a godly one) keeping you from fully trusting God and experiencing true joy?
  • Are you pointing to God’s Word as THE authority and letting the truth of the Gospel fill your heart and the heart of your children?
  • Are you asking God what He thinks of the day to day things you are doing?
  • Are you letting God change you every day through His Word?

If you feel like you’re failing in any of the above areas, take heart. While it is not always easy to start afresh because coming before God requires us to be honest, and pride can easily get in the way, God is waiting for you. He wants to extend His forgiveness to you.

Remember that being changed by the Word of God is a lifelong process for us moms too. In a way, we are all still being “homeschooled”! Whether you’ve been homeschooling for years or are just beginning, begin anew today to let God’s Word change you.

Am I qualified?

By Cris Loop

I can’t count how many times I have wondered if I was qualified to teach my children. I am just an average person without any degree whatsoever. No one in the world would consider me qualified.

Yet God made me and my children and gave my children to me as a gift. With this precious gift came the responsibility to educate them. So in His eyes, I’m perfectly qualified for the task.

Of course, God doesn’t expect me to teach my children alone. Over and over the Bible tells us that God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. He wants me to draw on Him for the knowledge and wisdom I need each moment.

The bottom line is that on my own strength, I’m not qualified (and never will be) to teach my children. But leaning on God and relying on His wisdom, I am more than qualified.

This month, be careful that you don’t begin thinking that you can educate your children by obtaining worldly knowledge or credentials. They will not make your more qualified to teach your children. Since only God can give you the wisdom you need for the task, make Him your only audience. Instead of playing to the audiences around you (the world’s ideas, state, family, etc.), spend time with the one audience that counts-your Heavenly Father.

The Everyday Moments of Life

“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

We normally don’t look at a pile of dishes or a trip to the grocery store and say, “Wow! What an incredible opportunity!”, do we? Yet, in reality, the everyday moments of life provide us with excellent opportunities–opportunities that we, sadly, often fail to even see.

This past week, my mother was out of town (which is why I am writing this tip). When she first left, the thought of doing all the housework and shopping nearly overwhelmed me, but those very chores I originally dreaded actually turned out to be incredible blessings. I was amazed at how God could speak through everything if I would listen. When I viewed tasks as opportunities, the time spent folding the wash or watering the lawn became a precious time of fellowship and service. On the other hand, when I viewed tasks as simply chores to cross off my list, I completely missed out on that time with the Lord.

I know that as mothers you all have a lot of tasks around the house to do. I would like to encourage you to remember this month that those everyday tasks are really opportunities in disguise.

Olympic Training

By Cris Loop

Watching the Olympics this month got me to thinking about the similarities of athletic training to home-school training. After all, we as parents are our childrens God-ordained trainers. We are training our children, not just for an earthly competition, but for eternity. We have a much higher, more eternal goal than an Olympic Gold. We want our children to know God and learn to live and walk in His Righteousness.

Think about the training the Olympic coaches put their athletes through. Training is typically costly, time consuming, constant, and consistent, not only for the athlete, but also for the coach. It shapes and impacts every area of life. The dedication and cost these coaches and athletes are willing to make to reach an Olympic Gold is both incredible and convicting. Are we that dedicated and committed in raising our children to know Christ?

Too often we get sidetracked in our training. It is so easy for us to fill our days with everything but what really counts. Soon we are either so busy doing various activities or else so worried about our childrens academics that we have lost sight of the goal toward which all our training should center: knowing Christ.

Character development is yet another aspect in which we get easily distracted. It is our natural tendency to focus on correcting behavior rather than truly training our childrens hearts. Intent on making them into well-mannered children, we too often entirely lose sight of our real goal (knowing Christ). Instead, we seem to settle for the earthly goal of socially acceptable children. God is much more concerned with whether our children know Him and are trusting Him than whether they say please and thank you. But are we?

We constantly need to reexamine what we are doing with our children to make sure we havent gotten sidetracked from the goal. My prayer for you this month is that you would pause and ask yourself, Am I really focused on knowing Christ and pointing my children to Him, or have other goals absorbed my time, energy, and interest?

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Today

By Cris Loop

Recently Ive been hit by the meaning and magnitude of TODAY. Right or wrong, good or bad, yesterdays choices/decisions are gone; tomorrows choices/decisions are not yet known, but TODAYTODAY is another story. TODAY is here and now. TODAY is new and full of life and opportunity.

Much like the Israelites in Jesus’ time were relying on being children of Abraham to make them rightly related to God, it is easy to rely on past decisions to follow the Lord (especially the costly ones) we’ve made instead of relying on Him TODAY. I know I’ve found myself either relying on my good decisions or crying over my bad decisions to the point of despair. Living in or relying on the past keeps us from hearing what the Lord has to say TODAY. Even relying on our past or present homeschooling efforts can keep us from hearing the LORD’S direction for TODAY.

As I read Psalm 95 –Today when you hear His voice, do not harden your heart –I was struck by the fact that every day this year God will be speaking to you and to me because He loves and longs for us, and each day we will be responding. The real question is: how will we respond? Join me in praying for a soft hearta listening hearta heart willing to respond toward Him. May Gods presence lead you TODAY through the thousands of decisions you will make this year, and may you lean on Him to teach you and your children in your homeschooling adventure TODAY.

. . choose for yourselves TODAY whom you will serve. . .” Joshua 24:15


Live What You Teach

By Cris Loop

“Your actions speak louder than your words” and “Live what you preach”–these are both sayings with which we’re all familiar. Did you realize that they apply to homeschooling too? I was reminded recently of how important it is to live what we teach our children. Looking back over the years, I can see that the way I lived often negated the things I was trying to teach my children about God and His kingdom.

For example, I would read with my children about how we needed to seek the Lord above all else. Then ten minutes later in math class, I would be seeking academic progress from my children. I had just sent my children a contradictory signal.

Other times I would have my children memorize scriptures on obeying their parents, oblivious to the areas in my own life where I was not being obedient to my Heavenly Father. How much good do you think my lectures on obedience did when they saw a disobedient heart in me?

Or I would stress to my children the need to minister and share Christ with others. Then, half an hour later, I would turn down a phone call from someone who just needed to talk with me because I didn’t want to interrupt my school. I didn’t connect the fact that in this particular case I had just contradicted what I had just tired to teach my children. Here I had told them about the importance of ministry, yet a little later had put our school on a higher pedestal than ministering to a person with an immediate need.

Mothers, I would urge you to live what you teach. Your actions really do speak louder than your words. The decisions you make throughout your day are sending your children a message. The only question is, are you sending them the right message?

The Joy of Learning

By Cris Loop

As I started learning how to play and read music this month it hit me that we never stop learning. We are designed to learn constantly.

Our children will learn their whole lives long. If we can teach them to enjoy learning now while theyre young, they will be able to carry that with them for the rest of their lives.

How do we make learning a joyful experience? Learning becomes a joy when we realize that everything relates to God and begin to see Him everywhere. No matter what we are studying, it testifies to the truth of Gods Word. Learning can be an exciting treasure hunt into Gods character, especially when you learn with your child.

Remembering back to when my children were young, I can think of many times when I was so worried about crossing ts and dotting is academically that I missed the opportunity to teach my children the joy of learning. I neglected to show them God everywhere because I was having a hard time seeing Him in all the academics myself. I would encourage you this month to make your homeschool a fascinating discovery into the riches of our God for you and your child. Teach them more than academics; teach them the joy of learning.

Counting for Eternity

By Cris Loop

As I approach my last year of official homeschooling (my baby is now a senior), I am finding myself contemplating what really matters in homeschooling. What about homeschooling will count for eternity? Good grades and academic knowledge? Or a complete trust in God and dependence on Him?

My homeschooling years have sped by quicker than I have thought possible. Looking back, I see how many times I got off course and placed my focus on things that don’t really count for eternity, such as academics and activities. I often tried to live up the standards of the school system instead of to God’s high callingthat I would know and depend on Him in everything.

I want to encourage you to invest each precious day you have at home with your children into things that matter. When all is said and done, it will not matter how high or low your children’s test scores are, nor how successful or unsuccessful they are by the world’s standards. Have your children learned to see God in all they do? Have they seen you depending on Him? May we each ask God to help us make today count for eternity.


Provoking to Anger

By Cris Loop

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the LORD. Ephesians 6:4

Many of us have chosen to homeschool because we want to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And, certainly training our children at home helps us do this. But there are still ways that, instead of bringing our children up in instruction of the Lord, we unconsciously provoke our children to anger.

Without realizing it, we fall into the perfect parent syndrome. We set ourselves up on a higher pedestal than our children simply because we are their parent. We give the impression that what we as parents say and do is perfect. The Bible, however, says that parents and children are in the same boathopeless apart from Christ. When we pretend to be perfect simply because we are a parent, we really forget our own need for God. And instead of pointing our children to the only hope for humankind, we end up provoking our children to anger.

Let me give you an example. I lecture my children for interrupting me. My children leave the room feeling about two inches tall and like the worst children in the world. Later that morning, I enter my childrens room without waiting for an answer to my knock and tell them to come downstairs that instance. My children secretly wonder why it was okay for me to interrupt their conversation. Were they to be bold enough to ask me this, I would inform them that I was the parent. I have just set myself up on a parent pedestal and provoked my poor children to anger. How much better it would be for my children to see me treating them with the same respect and kindness I want from them! And even better, when I treat them wrongly, to see me receive correction and humbly apologize.

Our children see our hypocrisy better than we do ourselves, and they will respect true humility much more than false perfection. Are you showing your children that both you and they need God, or are you putting yourself up on a parent pedestal? My prayer this month is that we would not provoke our children to anger but rather train them in love.


Opportunities

By Cris Loop

Every day God brings teaching opportunities to us. Yet we often entirely fail to recognize them. Tied to our own thoughts of what we should be doing for the day and filled with busy schedules, we often miss out on Gods provisions.

For example, you might be so preoccupied with finishing school on time that you miss out on an opportunity to serve someone right now. Dont feel like you have to finish school by the end of Juneremember, school is a 24 hour, 365 day a year activity. The things your children learn outside the textbooks are what really count.

Or perhaps your schedule is so crowded with activities that you are missing the priceless opportunities God wants to give you in your own home. It is easy to think our children need to participate in every sort of activity and opportunity available. Yet constantly running everywhere, we might really be robbing them of the opportunity to be learning and growing at home.

Or perhaps you are chafing under a severe trial, unaware that God has sent that very trial as a teaching opportunity for you. I know there have been many times in our family where we have faced difficult situationslike moves or sicknessthat, while they have prevented us from the school I had planned, have taught me and my children more than any textbooks ever could have. The interruptions and difficulties of life are actually our very best classroom.

I want to encourage you to take a look at your schedule. Ask yourself, Am I open and available for the unexpected opportunities God provides? Am I viewing the various things in my life as opportunities? Hand your schedule over to God. Give over to Him whether you get done all the things on your list or whether your children finish all the textbook work you have assigned. Be open to His changes. Dont miss His precious opportunities.
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The Same Everywhere

Everything looked strangely different. The narrow streets, the tall, narrow buildings, the square cars, the foreign signs, the Hungarian lady next to me—everything around me reminded me that I was in a different country. I was in Budapest, Hungary, assisting Sandra Lovelace (www.lifeworkforum.org) as she represented homeschooling at a missionary education conference.

Throughout the week, I saw many new and different things. I learned that life abroad differs in many aspects from life in the US. I also discovered that homeschoolers abroad face many different challenges than we do in the states. For one thing, they have a much harder time obtaining resources than we do. After all, we have come to take English libraries, homeschooling catalogues, and curriculum fairs for granted, things many homeschoolers abroad can only long to see one day. Most homeschoolers abroad also have to combat hostile opinions of homeschooling, while some live in constant fear that their liberty will be taken away.

Yet it struck me all week that homeschooling on both sides of the ocean is really very much the same. True, we might face different obstacles and situations. A homeschooling mom in a remote country of Europe might struggle with a feeling of isolation and abandon, while a mom in a bustling US metropolitan might struggle to juggle a thousand groups and activities. Yet both struggles, though very different, are, in a way, very much the same. They are both obstacles designed to draw us closer to God if we will let them. God can use isolation to make us cling to Him as our strength, life, and hope, while on the other hand, God can use a busy schedule to teach us to let Him carry our burdens and to be still before Him despite the tumult around us. God’s principles, love, and faithfulness remain the same everywhere—for all people in all times and places.

The purpose of homeschooling also remains the same no matter where we live. The goal of homeschooling, to introduce children to God and bring them up in Him, does not change.

And best of all, God doesn’t change. He is the sure rock we can lean on, whether we face the snowy landscape of Siberia or the basking heat of an Arizona summer.

So no matter where you are or what you are struggling with today, rest assured that God has the strength you need. He can use everything to strengthen and draw you closer to Him. His principles never change. The God who parted the Red Sea is your God too. The God who saved you is same God who stands ready to offer you His strength today. No circumstance is too hard for Him. Rather than letting your circumstances overwhelm you, let God use the circumstances around you right now to show you His incredible might and faithfulness.

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

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Distractions

Springtime brings with it green grass and flowers, longer days, and refreshing warmth. Yet spring’s welcomed arrival also brings a challenge for homeschooling: Spring Fever. The warm sunlight streaming in the window beckons of warmth and fun outdoors, taking thoughts away from schoolwork.

It is easy to get distracted from schoolwork, especially in the spring. Yet it is even easier for us to get distracted from our real goal in homeschooling. Our goal in homeschooling, as in every other area of life, should be to depend on and know the Lord each and every day.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God ahs called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:10a, 14

Often, however, things distract us from the Lord. Our children can be a major distraction. Many times, we base our idea of success on our children’s academic progress and character development. If we are pleased with their progress, we consider ourselves successful. If not, we feel overcome by a sense of failure.

Yet true success in homeschooling isn’t based on our children or our feelings. We should measure success by whether we are abiding in Christ and His love and letting Him teach us. If we are depending on Him, we are successful, no matter what the outward progress. Our goal needs to be, not academic success or good children, but Christ alone.

As you notice the spring weather distracting you and your children from your schoolwork, remember that other things are trying to distract you from the Lord. Ask yourself, “Is my heart fully devoted to the Lord, or am I getting distracted?”

–By Cris and Katherine Loop

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Problems, Pressures and Principles

Let’s face it. Problems and conflicts invariably arise in homeschooling. Uncooperative children and frustrating circumstances press in on us. The question is: what do we do when faced with apparently insurmountable problems?

Too often, we try to ignore the problems. We pull blinders over our eyes and imagine that our family is “okay” or will be “okay” while in reality we are falling apart. Or if we can’t ignore the problems, we tend to blame others for them. If only our children would cooperate or our husband were more supportive then we could be the moms we should be. But much as we like to blame others, God holds us accountable for how we are walking in the circumstances and with people He has given us. He wants us to follow Him and serve Him, regardless of what everyone else does or doesn’t do (John 21:19 -23).

We often try to fix problems by changing our situation. Instead of praying for God to change us through the situation, we begin praying for a way out of the situation. Rather than acknowledging that the pressures we face are God’s “servants” to us, we look for ways that we can be relieved from the pressures. In the end, we usually end up giving up on homeschooling altogether.

When you face the temptation to run away from your problems by considering options other than homeschooling, think about the principles that caused you to homeschool in the first place. God’s principles don’t change. Hasn’t God still called you, not someone else to train these children for Him? Why would you consider abandoning your responsibility with your children because of conflicts in your homeschooling endeavors?

Instead of ignoring, struggling, blaming others, or running away, we should be running to God with our problems and crying, “Lord, change me!” The very problems we seek to avoid are really Heaven sent messengers designed to drive us to our knees and make us more and more dependent on our Heavenly Father. If we would but resolve to stand in God’s strength, we would find Him sufficient for every situation.

This month, whenever you feel overwhelmed by your circumstances and problems, ask God to change you and resolve to keep seeking Him. You will be amazed at how He can use every problem to lovingly mold and shape you.

–By Cris and Katherine Loop

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Keeping Warm

Most of us know how to stay warm and keep our families from the winter elements. But how do we keep our hearts on fire for the Lord when everything around us seems to go against Him? How do we pass on to our children a love for God?

Ultimately, only God can keep our family’s hearts warm. We simply need to remember to snuggle up in His arms. His love and presence is the only way to keep the spiritual cold away.

As we head back to the schoolbooks this January, let’s remember that, much like the winter weather can easily chill our bodies if we don’t bundle up, spiritual coldness can easily grip our hearts if we don’t keep close to the warmth of God’s love. May we continually run to God and ask Him to keep our hearts and the hearts of our families on fire.

–By Cris Loop


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Teaching Through the Holidays

Opinions on how we should (or if we should) celebrate the holidays vary drastically among Christians. Some have huge celebrations, while others have virtually no celebration at all. Some of us glow with excitement when we think of the holidays, some of us cringe, and some of us don’t know what to do or think of it all. But regardless of your personal view or participation in the holidays, this time of year provides special opportunities for you as a teacher.

After all, like it or not, the sights and sounds of the holidays fill the air, so to speak. It is impossible to go anywhere or do anything without observing the changes in the environment around us. Why not take advantage of the season’s uniqueness to explore with your children new depths of God’s truths? There are hundreds of ways to use the season as a training tool with your children.

If you’re wondering where you could find time for this, let me just assure you that taking advantage of the season doesn’t have to take a lot of time. What you do can be adjusted to fit the time God has given you. I’ve also found that I often need to readjust my priorities so that I can spend the time I need on what’s really important-God’s kingdom.

Below are a few ideas to get you thinking about teaching God’s truths in new and refreshing ways through the holiday season. Of course, they are just ideas. As you read them, ask God to help you think of what might work for your family.

Looking up a scripture a day on God’s character with your children, writing out the scripture on special paper, and putting it in a box is an easy and meaningful way to prepare for Thanksgiving. Then on Thanksgiving have fun pulling out your scriptures and praising God for His character. Or you could hide the scriptures around the house and have your children go on a treasure hunt.

Decorating with Scripture verses around the house is another idea. Pick a theme and write out a dozen or so scripture verses on that theme. Attach them with removable putty over a few key light switches throughout the house so that you and your family can read them throughout the month. This activity only takes an hour or so, but it really helps the whole family ponder a concept. You can also count the activity as handwriting if you have your older children write the verses.

Doing simple plays and skits using old sheets as costumes can often help bring the Christmas story and its meaning to life. Younger children can act out the Christmas Story while Dad reads it aloud. Older children can design their own plays or compile the parts so that they can each read their character. Plays don’t have to be church productions to be meaningful.

Simple devotions can also help your family keep focused. An easy idea for the rest of November would be to cut out a handful of leaves from multi-colored paper and put magnets on their backs. Every day, write an attribute of God on each leaf and stick the leaf on the refrigerator. Ponder and think about that attribute and what it means for you. Or skip the magnets and glue your leaf each day unto a large poster-board tree.

Evaluate how to decorate your home and consider putting up your Christmas decorations slowly as you reflect on their significance. For example, pull out one character of your nativity scene a day, and read about/think about that character’s response to Christmas as you do. Ask God, How did this person respond to your message? And then, How am I responding to your message?

For older children, assign them the task of coming up with an encouraging family activity. This will force them to think about God’s message, pray, and apply a lot of skills.

While the above suggestions only scratch the surface of the limitless possibilities of ways you can teach through the holidays, I hope they will get you started. I’d like to bring this tip to a close with one parting thought. Be sure to ask God how to use the holiday season to teach your children more about Him. That is what you really want them to learn.

–By Cris Loop

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Fitting In

One of the number one questions our family got asked when people discovered we were homeschooling was: How will your children “fit in”? While smiling to myself, I typically explained that I didn’t really want my children to “fit in” with the culture. Yet I’ll confess, there were times when I wondered about whether I was giving my children normal opportunities. At some point or another, I think we all want to fit in (and have our children fit in) with those around us–to be “normal”.

We continually need to remember that our citizenship is not here on this earth. We are citizens of heaven. Instead of trying to “fit in”, shouldn’t we be asking God to transform our old, worldly way of thinking to His Heavenly way? Why would we want to fit into this world anyway? Hasn’t God left us here so that we might be representatives of our true country–Heaven? How can we represent God and His kingdom if we are busy trying to fit into a world opposed to God?

This month, ask God to let His thoughts and ideas permeate your thinking. Quit worrying about giving your children what the world says they need. Instead, ask God to show you His perspective on educating them. Make knowing Him your goal, whether or not it “fits in”.

–Cris Loop

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Changing Plans

As I thought about starting back to school this month, the Lord reminded me of one particular year when I could hardly wait to start school. I had spent hours planning my children’s curriculum. I’d read all their material and prepared myself to teach it. My new plan addressed all last year’s problems. I was sure that year would be our best year.

Yet all year, everything seemed to go against my plan. My children didn’t want to learn. My schedule changed. My frustration mounted as I tried desperately to stick to my plan.

Finally, God showed me that I’d been relying on my plan to get us through the year instead of on Him. What a freedom I felt when I finally let go of my plan and started accepting God’s changes with joy!

Whether you have a plan this year or not, remember to sit back and accept with joy God’s plan for you and your children. Don’t be so consumed with a plan or a curriculum that you miss His voice. Rely on Him–not a plan or a curriculum–to teach your children. Then rejoice as He changes your plans to His.

–Cris Loop

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Countdown to a new school year—are you ready? (July 2004)

Another school year is just around the corner. Are you ready? Have you chosen and ordered this year’s curriculum? Have you scheduled all the extracurricular activities your children will be involved with this coming year?

Whether you feel ready to get back to school or not, I have something I would like you to consider. Homeschooling is more than academics and activities. Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It’s a living classroom 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. Homeschooling is a continual opportunity to learn from God and to impress God’s love upon your children.

God is concerned about our hearts and the hearts of our children, not whether our children know their science facts or use the best curriculum possible. So as you seek to prepare for the fall, ask God to prepare your heart to listen and learn from Him every day. Then you will be really ready.

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Summer Opportunity (June 2004)

At last you’ve finished school! Your job for the year has finally come to an end. You sit back and look forward to a summer off…

Freeze that thinking. You have a full time job that doesn’t include time off during the summer. You are a full-time, year-round mother. Like it or not, motherhood doesn’t end with the school year. It continues throughout the summer, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

This summer, remember that you have a job and strive to do your job as unto the Lord. Although what you do daily might change from school year to summertime, your position and influence as a mother will not. Instead of “off”, think “opportunity.”

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Communication–It Starts With Listening (May 2004)

“Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Our goal as home educators is to communicate God’s truth to our children. However, a lot of times we get so worried about trying to communicate that we forget the key to true communication: a listening heart. “Hear, O Israel…” Unless our own heart is in tune with and listening to God, we’ll never be able to correctly communicate His thoughts to our children. So take a few minutes today to stop and listen. Ask the Lord to give you ears to hear and a heart willing to receive from Him.

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Traveling Home (March 2004)

You’re traveling home. The light in front of you suddenly turns yellow. Should you “punch it” or “stop”? This common split second decision can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Thinking about my children making this decision used to unnerve me a little, especially when in the passenger’s seat, until the day a yellow light interrupted our ride home.

My daughter chose to stop in plenty of time. The landscaping truck behind us, however, decided to “punch it”. As I looked in my mirror I could see the truck speeding up. I braced myself for the impact, knowing the truck could not avoid hitting us. Then, in shock, I witnessed God’s mighty power—the truck sailed by my window with one side of his wheels on the little raised median and the other side of wheels still on the road less than an inch from our car. How he fit between us and the light pole at such an angle still baffles me.

The truck did not hit us, but the realization that God has my life in His hands did. Of course I had always known that God was in control of my life, but my apprehension every time I rode in the passenger seat revealed to me that I was not living like I really believed this truth. If I had, I would have always felt as safe as I did at that moment. Had I forgotten that God is watching over the details of my life? Had I been hearing God’s Word, but failing to put it into action?

Driving in the passenger seat since that event has been a new experience for me. Even the ride home that day was full of joy and assurance in God’s ability to see us home. I am no longer apprehensive and relying on my ability or my children’s ability (at least while driving). I can rest–God is in control of my life!

The knowledge that God’s watching over each step you make should give a new lift to your homeschool endeavors. If you’ve put your life in God’s hands, He is really “driving” you and your children each day. Are you letting Him drive, or are you trusting your ability to educate your children, their ability to learn, or your curriculum choice? Do your hidden fears and actions reveal thoughts that are short of trust in God? Are you worried that your children are not excelling academically? Or are you proud that they are? Are you comparing yourself to what others are doing? Is God really in charge of your schedule, or are you? As I just shared, knowing a truth from God’s Word falls short of living that truth. Don’t miss out on the joy of living God’s Word. Let Him change you. Only He is capable of getting you home safely.

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Buckle up! (February 2004)

Entering the passenger side of the car for the first time with my child behind the wheel was an eye-opening experience. I’d heard many stories of teaching children to drive, but nothing had entirely prepared me. I grabbed my seatbelt as my son floored the accelerator around a tight turn.

“What are you doing?” I gasped once my breath came back. “Slow down!”

“But Mom, you take that turn like that,” came his innocent reply.

I panicked as I realized that my son, without any formal instruction from me drives exactly like me. And as I thought about it, my daughter drives like me too. I suddenly realized that both my children had been learning to drive from me for years. Every time we got in the car together they’d been watching me. They’d learned all my maneuvers and fears, right down to my unreasonable fear of parallel parking.

Children are constantly learning. Every day, every hour, and every minute your children are watching and mimicking your actions. A scary thought when we remember that the Bible tells us even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags!

Our sinfulness should make us eager to buckle ourselves and our children into God’s perfect hands. Sadly, we often try to become the perfect moms and teachers ourselves. We end up teaching our children to cover their sinful hearts in self righteousness instead of God’s righteousness. How much better to teach them to run to God constantly! Traveling in God’s strength instead of our own is the only safe way to travel. So buckle up and rest in His care!

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Short Sightedness (January 2004)

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wilderness… I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Isaiah 43:19-21 NIV

God is doing something new, something never heard of before, and He’s doing it in your life. He’s springing up His truth and ways all around you. He is trying to give you spiritual drink and refreshment in all you do, so that you may proclaim His praise. But are you noticing God’s hand?

I must confess, I often don’t think about the fact that God is constantly springing up His strength and life. I walk right over His daily lessons like I walk over a field of grass. I miss drinking from God’s strength and life in my normal routine. It isn’t until He springs up a gigantic tree in my path that I realize He’s trying to speak to me. We humans are so shortsighted, aren’t we? If we’d only look to God, we’d find thousands of truths He’s springing up before us everyday.

As you return to the daily bookwork involved with home education, don’t just walk through your days on your own strength. Look for the new spiritual lessons God is springing up. Draw from Him all you need. Notice the tiny truths–the tiny blades of grass–He sends. Let God use science, history, math, and everything else to reveal Himself to you. Each day, He’s springing up His strength and lessons for you—do you not perceive it?

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Let God be the Teacher (December 2003)

“All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace.” Isaiah 54:13 NIV

My mom clung to this verse in Isaiah when she started homeschooling me. She’s since shared how in the midst of her fears of not knowing enough to teach us, God gave her this verse to show her that He would be our teacher.

Over the years, I’ve watched God teach me. I remember many times I’d be struggling over a concept that Mom felt powerless to explain. We’d take it to the Lord, and one way or another, He’d show me what I needed to know.

Your children can have no better teacher than God Himself. And He has appointed you, their parent, as His agent. So take heart and look to Him this month.

–Katherine

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