Friday, April 18, 2014

Doing Devotions With Our Children

I have to admit that this has been a weakness of mine.  For the past few years, I have struggled to get going in the morning.  Then, by the time we get started, I feel a great sense of pressure to get all our academic work done.  So, I've skipped devotions.  We have always prayed before all of our meals and have family devotions many nights.  So, I let the practice go by the wayside for a bit.

When my kids were little (ages 2-5), reading a Bible Story was a daily practice in our schooling.  We read through the Read Aloud Bible Stories (all 4 volumes) plus Ms. Lindvall's Tell-Me Stories (from the same set, but about Jesus' parables) when they were 2 and 3 years old.  Then, we read through Ms. Lindvall's little storybook, Bible Stories for Little Children when they are 4 and 5 years old.  It's out of print and it's one of my favorite books! After each short story, they get to answer a few short questions that are right at their level.  Eli just finished this one with me and loved it.  Now, we've moved on to Big Thoughts for Little People by Kenneth Taylor, the man who founded Tyndale Publishing.  I reintroduce the Read Aloud Bible Stories when my kids are learning to read, so Eli is reading through them aloud to me now.  The language is simple and the books are large--with large print.  They're really wonderful.

But, when my kids hit first grade, I don't have a specific devotion plan.  I have read different devotions periodically for a time, but I couldn't find a routine that could stick well for me.  Until recently...

We instituted a new morning ritual.  Each morning our goal is to listen to Adventures in Odyssey around 8 am.  Sometimes it ends up being 8:10 or even 8:15, but no later than 8:30 a.m.  This has gotten my kids up and going--as well as me.  Along with this ritual is the habit we've begun that everyone must gather on the couch for devotions and a read aloud.  We already finished reading The Cricket In Times Square by George Shelden and have now started The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit.  Doing read alouds has been another weakness of mine.  I have been good about it when my kids are younger, but then as they get older I have let it go and let them read on their own.

But, God is a redeemer.  I have noticed how homeschooling is not just about my children learning, but it is about me learning as well.  It is often about God working through my weaknesses and showing me how to fill in the gaps that can result from them.  I see God's graciousness to me and His love for my children in how He has created them.  My oldest daughter reads the Word on her own and has for quite some time.  I never stopped talking to my children about God and His Word as we went about our days.  But, I erred in not starting things off all together.

My children and I all value our new routine.  I think my oldest daughter most of all.  I love to see how God fits the pieces together.

When my kids were little, I reviewed a lot of Bible storybooks.  I learned a lot from reading so many.  Some were very fluffy.  Some filled in details that weren't in the Bible.  Some changed certain little details that are in the Bible.  That's why I ended up loving Ms. Lindvall's books and the one by Kenneth Taylor.  I posted a list of my favorite ones by age group HERE.

Last year I received an e-copy of a new one by Starr Meade, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Devotions based on the Heidleberg Catechism.  I had considered reading her other devotion book based on the Shorter Catechism before, so I was interested in this one.  When I first received it, I tried reading it with the kids but they didn't take to it.  So, I set it aside... for another time.

Three weeks ago, as I was considering what to use for our morning devotions, I looked through our collection.  I wanted a devotion that would work for my almost 6 year old, 8 year old, and 10 year old together.  I looked through what I have.  I opened up Leading Little Ones to God and a few others, but none of them appealed to me.  I wanted a devotion that would take us a long time to go through, but that had short daily devotions in it.  I didn't want a fluffy book that starts with a cultural grab your attention trick that then connects a Biblical truth to it.  I also didn't want a short book with only 30 days of devotions.  Then, I remembered Comforting Hearts.  So, I pulled out my Kindle and "opened" the book up.

I sat down with my three kids on our couch and pulled out our Bible.  I started with week 1.  Each week has 2 questions. The first day we only talked about question #1.  Then, the next day we talked about question #3.  On day 3, we actually did Monday's devotion.  At the end of each day, there is a verse or two from the Bible to read.  I used this chance to teach (and reteach) my children how to look up verses in the Bible.  We started by singing the Awanas' books of the Bible songs.  Then, we sang the OT or NT song until we got to the book we were looking for.  Each day it is a different child's turn to read.  So, they each get a chance to practice looking up verses.  They look forward to it.  Some days we all pray when we're done and other days just me or one of the kids prays.  

Over the past year, I've learned a lot watching my husband do our evening devotions.  He's a natural teacher.  I am a learned teacher.  I need a nugget and then I can run with him. But, with him, it just comes naturally how to explain things.  When I discuss the devotional with my kids, I ask them what different words or phrases mean and we discuss them.  The first couple of questions focus on sin and sin and sin.  My kids understand that we live in a fallen world.  And we have talked about sin and misery because of the fall.  But, I also daily remind them of God's grace for them and the hope that He has given us.  

I am so thankful to have a routine in place now that works for our morning devotions.  It's a good place to start our mornings.  I have to admit that if we have to be out the door early in the morning, we don't get our devotions in.  But, we do the rest of the week.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds for review from P&R Publishing.


Kim said...

How is Eli almost 6?!! Wow.
I, too, have struggled with devotions as my girls have gotten older. Still struggling. This was good for me to read. Thank you for sharing.

Anne said...

I know! Tuesday! So crazy :)