Having reared two children to adulthood and almost-adulthood (19 and 17), I feel I have grown into authority on the topic and can now look back and see what helped to contribute to their strong love for the Lord and desire to serve Him. It helps on the weary days as I strive to bring up the youngest (9) in the same way!
One of our theme verses is Matthew 6:33:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
How easy it is to get sucked into the world’s focus of academics and intellectualism! It isn’t that learning is wrong. In fact, learning is very good and an important part of life. But so often when we vigorously pursue academics, we miss the main focus in all our striving.
We are to first seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness! We have to stop using the world’s standards for success in our homes! I would propose that if your 9-year-old child knows all his multiplication facts and is reading at “grade level” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), but is disrespectful and disobedient, you are the one who’s “behind.”
If we only dreaded that word in the context of training our children as much as we do in the context of academics, we would see so much difference in our families! We should strive first of all not to get “behind” in our “discipline unto godliness.”
“Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Tim. 4:7b-8
Here Timothy refers to “bodily training”—probably exercise—as being less important than training in godliness, but why could this not also apply to mental exercise and training, as they are also part of our bodies? The point is that training in godliness should be paramount to anything else, as it has eternal value!
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19
So, how do we do that?
How do we teach our children to treasure what is important and to seek after God with all their hearts? We always want the practical “how-tos,” so I want to share a few of the book series we’ve personally used that stand out as most impactful in building their character and molding their hearts towards Christ. (You can also find some of these in my blog post, My Great, Big, Ginormous List of Lifeschooling Curricula).
This certainly is not an exhaustive list, nor is it as important as simply opening up the Word daily with your children, but I hope these ideas are helpful! As for the “and all these things will be added” portion of Matthew 6:33, you will also notice that many of these Bible and character training resources overlap into other subject areas, as well! God will be faithful as you seek Him first in your homeschooling.
Here are some of the character-building book series we’ve used…
Building on the Rock series – Several years ago, Korban and I read these books before bed each night and really loved them! They are all based on true stories (and I’m a sucker for true stories) from at least 100 years ago, and many of them reference miraculous events and answers to prayer. Most Christians in that time period put a much greater emphasis on the Sabbath, and many of the stories highlight those who sacrificed personal comfort or even safety to honor the Sabbath and not work or do other things they were convicted against doing. It is very challenging to my own faith!
Children’s Character Building Collection – I first learned of these books from Israel Wayne (who spoke at a couple of our conferences) in a Facebook post, so I was excited to check them out! These are simple stories filled with Biblical truth and I was surprised how engaged my youngest one was when I read the first story at lunch time one day. He continued asking for them, and I could tell the truth was getting into his heart. The company also sells a study guide for the books that may be helpful for digging deeper and if you sign up for their website’s newsletter, they will send you a free digital copy of one of their books so you can try before you buy!
Christian Heroes Then and Now – Another series of wonderful books is the Christian Heroes Then and Now books by Janet and Geoff Benge, whom I had the privilege to meet at a conference several years ago. I love Janet’s story of how she used to write little books when she was a child! It reminds me once again of the importance of focusing on our children’s gifts (a huge part of the lifeschooling philosophy), even when they are young. This link is to a small set, but there are dozens of these biographies that you’ve no doubt seen piled high on vendor tables at homeschool curriculum fairs. They are some of the “staples” of every Christian homeschool. If you want to know more about what these books are like, you can read my review of the book, Lessons from Count Zinzendorf.
Elsie Dinsmore – This is a classic series that many girls have grown up loving! We have a relative who actually named her daughter Elsie after the character in these books. Elsie is always trying to do what’s right, and according to my daughter she never seems to sin at all! This can be wonderfully encouraging, but I will also give a little warning that the unrealistic nature of a girl who never sins can sometimes also work in the other direction. My daughter got to a point where she eventually had to move on to a more realistic character who messed up sometimes, but learned from it. So, while I definitely felt these worthy enough to include, I would use them along with other resources so your children also understand there is grace when they sin.
God, I Need to Talk to You About… – Korban loved pulling these simple little books off his shelf and reading them whenever he was struggling in a certain area! They are short and sweet, but deal with many sin issues that children struggle with.
Hero Tales – This is another great series we used in our homeschooling that can also be easily used in your family devotions time! The stories are true, but short and easy to read in one sitting. Each story ends with a quote, a relevant verse, and a “Let’s Talk About It” section. I would try to fit the stories in with whatever else we were learning in history or areas that related to the stories. It was a nice way to bring in some character training naturally and change things up for a few minutes.
I’m sure I could add many more wonderful book series to this list, but these are the ones I know best that have been most helpful in our family. I hope you find them a blessing to yours, as well!