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Deliberate Devotions

- By Vicki Bentley, www.hslda.org/earlyyears

Note: This article is one of the Bonus Web Articles featured in the Virginia Home Educator’s special preschool edition.

In a Christian homeschool family, God’s Word is the foundation of all other study, so our biblical worldview impacts all learning in subtle ways. But there are also times when we want that impact to be more deliberate. How can busy homeschool families incorporate Bible study, prayer, and everyday-life application of biblical principles into their days?

Some fathers’ work schedules allow them to open the day in prayer or Bible reading with their families. If not, Dad may encourage Mom to begin with a godly focus later in the morning, and he may lead family worship or study at another time. In our household, Dad had weekly, interactive, devotional lessons springboarding from the “Heritage Builders Family Tool Chest” series. No time to prepare? Fresh out of ideas? Phil Downer’s “One-Inch Bible Study” is a guide for impromptu, quick, and relevant lessons.

To begin our school day, I would put on some music that would help us focus on the Lord, and the children would either sing along or listen quietly—and hopefully reverently! Then we would have a brief devotional lesson, followed by a short time of prayer. This fifteen minutes gave us a deliberate start to our day and helped us to begin with cheerful hearts.

Your time can be as simple as reading a Bible passage and praying together. Some parents find it helpful to use a book such as “Little Visits with God,” which gives a short faith- and character-based story, a Bible verse to look up, a “moral of the story,” and a sample prayer. When the older girls were more “school age,” we used guides like “Bible Study for All Ages” or “Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History” for age-integrated chronological studies of scripture, while resources such as “Character Building for Families” helped us focus on specific spiritual issues within our family. Our children learned some practical applications of prayer along with the fictional Ryan as we read the chapter book, Adventure at Hidden Haven Ranch. By upper elementary or early middle school, they were ready for basic, individual, inductive Bible studies.

Church-based programs such as Awana, Missionettes, or Royal Rangers include substantial Bible memorization and catechism as well as hands-on application in service projects. Even clubs such as Keepers of the Faith and Kids with a Purpose incorporate a biblical worldview into everyday service.

During quiet times, play times, or in the car, the Bible (or a children’s Bible storybook on CD) can be used to help children hide God’s Word in their hearts. (By the way, even the most well-meaning children have trouble sitting still sometimes; a coloring page or a squeeze ball can help them focus their energy quietly and still absorb the lesson. Adapt to their learning styles as needed!)

For some of you, incorporating these ideas can feel overwhelming. If you wonder how you can fit even a brief moment of quiet time or prayer into your day, I hope you will be encouraged and inspired by the insights shared by another time-challenged homeschool mom:

PRACTICAL PRAYER

by Tricia Hodges (from Habits for a Happy Home; used with permission)

The community helpers puzzle. Its pieces dumped in the floor, again. I find myself frustrated, again.

Frustrated to pick up the pieces and frustrated we were all sick. Frustrated we couldn’t get out and help the victims of recent flooding.

But the Lord calmly gave me an answer, in His patient way. As I was picking up each puzzle piece, He said, “Pray.”

The ambulance piece–pray for ambulance workers. The police car–pray for our police force rescuing flood victims. The tow truck–wow. I hadn’t even thought about all those cars needing to be towed away. And look, the school bus.

I adore practical answers.

As a young mother, I thought I was supposed to get off in my little corner and have my quiet time. More and more that became a hard thing to do. I didn’t quite understand how I was supposed to pray without ceasing.

I imagined myself, face down, in the middle of the floor trying to pray and acting oblivious to children running all around me, hollering, “Mama!” “Mama!” Me, answering, “Quiet now children; I’m praying.”

The Lord has gently taught me that prayer should be the foundation of our day. Not a separate practice, always apart from the children. Though there certainly is a time for formal prayer, the praying habit is to be passed on. It’s a way of life.

I once heard prayer compared to breathing. Breathe out… send a prayer up… Breathe in…soak up His wisdom, give thanks. It’s a conversation. It’s easy. Something you don’t even have to put effort into.

Pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Guess what? I’ve found freedom in praying out loud while driving my homeschool bus to activities. “Lord, help us to be safe. Help children to obey. Help us to be polite and have a good time.”

Yes, I enjoy quiet time before the children wake. But the children should also catch me with my Bible when they come down the steps, all sleepy-eyed, in the morning. “Here, child, bring that warm blanket and snuggle with me. Let’s have some quiet time with Jesus.”

Other practical prayers as you go about your day: When you hear a siren, stop and pray with the children. Pray not only for those that might be hurting but also for those that are responding to the emergency. Pray for healing. Siren prayers usually prompt us to pray for others we know with urgent needs.

When that airplane flies overhead, pray: “God, please bless the people in the airplane.” My mother taught us this simple prayer. The youngest girl thought an airplane’s name was “bless” for the longest time.

Can’t find something? Pray. The simple act of stopping and praying for wisdom helps calm everybody down. “Mama, shouldn’t we pray?” the seven-year-old reminds. We do. And then I find my keys.

Simple, anytime prayers:

“Help!”

“Please give me wisdom!”

“Allow me to show love.”

And finally, I pause at my kitchen sink often to reread the quote I printed out from Everyday Homemaking:

“You can’t change what you have or haven’t done over the past year. Just start where you are, ask the Lord to make you a ‘joyful mother of children,’ pray for grace and wisdom (and strength and patience), and move forward.”

Just pray. All day.

MORE BIBLE CURRICULUM AND CHARACTER TRAINING RESOURCES

Bible Study Guide for All Ages–Age-integrated study for families or small groups

Book by Book (Walk Thru the Bible Ministries)–Multi-sensory approach to teaching the major themes of all 66 books of the Bible

Celebrating Biblical Feasts by Martha Zimmerman–Hands-on study of the Jewish feasts, from a Christian perspective

Character Building for Families (Volumes I and II)by Lee Ann Rubsam–Age-integrated, interactive, scriptural studies of character qualities/spiritual fruit

Character Sketches from the Pages of Scripture, Illustrated in the World of Nature, Vol I, II, and III (Institute for Basic Youth Conflicts)

Children’s Inductive Bible Studies “Know and Grow” series–Inductive Bible studies for children who can read on their own; primary through middle school

Deeper Roots Publications Bible curriculum: Firm Foundations (elementary), Discovering … series (junior high), God’s Got Stuff to Do…series for K-5, with a missions focus

Discover 4 Yourself series–Inductive Bible studies for elementary through junior high (Precept Ministries)

Doorposts–Bible study and character training/devotional materials for all ages, including Polished Cornerstones (for girls) and Plants Grown Up (for boys) Explorers Bible Studies–Inductive studies for preschool through adult

A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson–Comprehensive guide to Jewish holidays for Christian families

Family Tool Chestseries (Heritage Builders)–Hands-on, active devotional guide for all ages

Fun Projects for Hands-On Character Building by Marilyn Boyer–Practical ideas to immerse your child in a biblical worldview and character training through his physical environment

Grapevine studies–Old Testament and New Testament overviews utilizing stick-figure drawing; for kindergarten through high school (though younger children must be able to control a pencil)

Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History–Age-integrated study for all ages

Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland–Classic devotional guide to teaching young children about God; conversational style

Memlok / PC Memlok Bible Memory System–Uses word pictures on cards or the computer to help memorize scripture; available in several translations

Memory Books (Scripture Memory Fellowship)–Scripture songs (including reference), picture books; for preschool through adult

The Narrow Way Character Curriculum–Bible study and character training curriculum for the whole family; 150 daily lessons

Our 24 Family Ways by Clay and Sally Clarkson–Devotional guide for families

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism by Starr Meade–Devotions based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism

A month of prayers for your children (and yourself!)–A 31-day chart of character-focused prayers based on scripture (free download); great to print out for the refrigerator door

Vicki Bentley, author of Home Education 101 and a veteran homeschool mom of many, offers help and encouragement through Home School Legal Defense Association’s Early Years program. This article was previously published as a free Early Years e-newsletter. For more information on homeschooling preschool through middle school, visit www.hslda.org/earlyyears.

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