What we do for Bible, Worldview, and Discipleship Studies

#teachallthethings

There have been many different Bible programs and studies we have done over the years. Some have fallen flat and been a disappointment, a waste of money and time. I won’t focus on those here. I want to share some of the very best resources we’ve found because they are so captivating and have helped me build a foundation of truth for the children. Those of you who have asked me what we do for Bible, here you go!

Sometimes, when parents start out looking into homeschooling, they feel overwhelmed at all the choices for curriculum. One place that can be a good start is to narrow down Bible choices first. It’s a wonderful freedom bestowed by the choice to homeschool that we as parents get to choose how to direct our children’s lives in ways that go far beyond education. Spiritual training directs all the way into eternity! We believe Bible should be the cornerstone of our homeschool and that’s why I’m writing a whole blog post devoted just to Bible resources. Not all of these will work for every family, and we certainly don’t do all of them in any given year. Instead, I have purposed to let Holy Spirit guide us to training that will work for any given season we walk into so we are equipped for Kingdom work. Some of the best of what we’ve tried has ended up in this post.

Of course, Scripture is woven throughout all of our school material (history, science, mathematics, literature, etc.) but here we focus on specifically learning and living out God’s Word. While there are many, many options for spiritual development out there, this post will mainly look at curriculum that can be adapted to homeschooling for Bible credit and/or family devotions, not to programs and tools for things like chore-training and character attributes (which are important too, just different from the purposes outlined here). Perhaps some of these choices will help you begin to build a curriculum to train up your children. Even if you make the decision to pursue more traditional schooling options for your kiddos, these resources can be an invaluable resource for devotional life.

Scripture Memorization

Hands-down, the very best Bible memory CDs we’ve ever used are produced by the Steve and Annie Harrow. We were first introduced to their music through Sonlight Bible cores, which we’ve used regularly since the beginning of our homeschool journey. The songs are very simple and well-done without being cheesy and annoying. In fact, Steve and Annie’s Harrow’s music is pleasant enough that I could have it playing in the background while we work on other subjects. I can’t say that for most of the children’s Scriptural music I’ve come across. All the tracks have an accompanying instrumental track for when the children have memorized the words to the verses. The only downside I see to their music is that most of the verse references are not included in the songs themselves. When I was a little girl, I remember listening to GT and the Halo Express, which had the Bible references actually sung along with the Scripture. To this day, the verses I learned back then are burned into my memory WITH the references. However, even considering this, I still prefer Harrow family productions as they are so beautiful. It’s not too much extra work to memorize the references separately. We currently have five of their seven CDs.

www.singtheword.com

Catechism

This is the first year we are using the Westminster Shorter Catechism in our biblical studies. There are many reasons to include catechism in our daily lessons even though we are not orthodox. The main reason is that children need to internalize the basics of Scriptural understanding. These truths are the bricks with which we build a House of Truth. The little ones cannot understand complex, abstract doctrines, but by memorizing questions and answers such as they are presented in the catechism, they will be able to build well into the future as their understanding develops. I do not believe catechism should be held above memorization of the Word itself, but it is important to be able to give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15) and put concise words to exactly WHAT we believe. We are using Holly Dutton’s Westminster Shorter Catechism songs. There are four CDs in all, and they cover all 107 questions and answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Both the questions and answers are included in each song, making it easier for the kids to have memory pegs for some of the main doctrinal points of our faith. There are several questions we will not memorize as they differ fundamentally with what we believe (i.e. infant baptism being a sacrament, the first day of the week being the God-ordained Sabbath after Christ’s resurrection, etc.). However, since the majority of the questions and answers are so eloquent and the music is so beautiful and simple, I did not want to forego the learning opportunity provided by the catechism.

www.catechismforkids.com

Bible Study

Kay Arthur’s book How to Study Your Bible revolutionized my life. I visited this book when I was in Bible college and again while part of a leadership training program in my young adult years. Kay’s method of delving into the text is so straightforward, and I really like the questions that are laid out at the beginning of a study. They can be used for any passages, anywhere in the Word. While I do not use her method for my devotional reading, those times when I just want the truth of God’s Word to wash over my spirit but I am not doing a particular exegesis, I have yet to find a better way of organizing study. A few years ago, I discovered that Kay Arthur’s Precepts Ministries International publishes a series of Bible study books for kids called Discover 4 Yourself. They have a version of How to Study Your Bible for children as well as several workbooks that students can use to go through different topics in both the Old and New Testaments. The workbooks are fabulous. They are interesting and written with an engaging narrative style that ties the adventure of Bible study with the reality that one can actually possess a deep understanding of God’s Word no matter her age. There are games, puzzles, and questions that force kids to really dig into the text. Jaelah and Selah have done several of the workbooks but are now growing out of them and are ready for the next phase of Bible study. Chavah recently finished the book for Jonah and I can’t even express the joy I feel as I look through her workbook and see her handwriting and colorful notes all over the text, displaying how she has dug into the meat of the Word. It is nice that most of the referenced Scripture is included IN the workbooks so that any mistakes made with the colorful symbols that are used in study won’t be a permanent part of the children’s personal Bibles. The material is broken up into very manageable chunks that don’t take more than about 20-30 minutes to complete per day. The teacher editions are nice but not completely necessary if a parent has an understanding of Kay Arthur’s study methods and can do the work along with the children. So far, Lord, Teach Me to Pray has been my favorite – an entire book breaking down the Lord’s Prayer.

www.precept.org

PictureSmart Bible has been on my backburner for several years now. I have not yet delved into the program because I wanted to be able to use it with all of the kids at the same time. Just recently, PictureSmart Bible has come out with a K-3 curriculum, so very soon we will be able to use the Grade 4-Adult curriculum for the older kids and the K-3 for the younger kids. If you want to go through the entire Bible and get the main theme from each book summarized in one picture that you color in as you go, this is the program for you. Not only do you go through and study every single book of the Bible, God’s plan of salvation is emphasized in each and every book. I don’t know of many programs, especially for young children, that take the minor prophets of the Old Testament and reveal how redemption is woven through the entire text.

www.picturesmartbible.com

Veritas Press Bible is a program we are using for the first time this homeschooling year. Now that I am teaching 6 students, any subjects we can combine and easily adapt for levels of ability save a lot of time for me. A fan of the idea of “memory pegs” on which children can place knowledge as they grow, I have found VP Bible to be an excellent program for review and understanding. There are five sets of flash cards, each set made up of 32 of the most important events and people of a particular part of the Bible. On the front of each 5 ½ x 8 ½ card is an illustration or famous artwork depicting a person or event. On the back is a short summary of the event as well as Scriptural reference, dates (if applicable), as well as a list of cross-reference materials that can be used for further study (books such as the Children’s Illustrated Bible, or Journey Through the Bible, etc.). Each of the five sets has a memory song to go with it and will go through all 32 events as well as the setting and Bible reference referenced by the cards themselves. Currently, we are making our way through the Genesis to Joshua song. While not the most incredible work of musicianship I’ve ever heard, the details ARE being retained by the kids. My goal is not for them to memorize the whole memory song, but rather to get very familiar with the order of Biblical history and the important events. A teacher guide is included with each CD with printable worksheets and tests related to each flash card in the set. I use these to go through the cards, but the review portions tend to get a little redundant in my opinion after awhile, so I do not emphasize them more than on the first time or two we are looking through a particular flash card. Memory work is a foundational aspect of classical education, but I find that the time I am spending with the kids on these cards is enough for familiarity to be established, which is my ultimate goal (not word-perfect memorization of song lyrics). Especially considering all the other Bible resources we are using concurrently, I feel that we are getting enough out of this program to justify the cost of the flash cards. The five sets consist of Genesis to Joshua, Judges to Kings, Chronicles to Malachi, The Gospels, and Acts to Revelation. The bonus is that these cards DO correspond to the Veritas Press history cards, which has really helped the older two girls to place biblical events alongside ancient world history.

www.veritaspress.com

Worldview & Apologetics

We use Apologia Worldview curriculum as the basis of our family devotions. We took a year just to go through the first book, letting the conversational bunny trails get lively and knowing that interruptions abound. After all, you can only get through so much serious discussion with a toddler and a preschooler contributing around the dinner table. This curriculum has been a family favorite thus far and we have not even gotten more than halfway through the second book. The stories, dialogue, Scripture, and beautiful illustrations and photography have added a great depth to conversation for our family. I particularly appreciate the importance placed on developing a solidly Christian worldview and acknowledging the fact that Scriptural truth simply MUST be the foundation upon which we build our entire lives. The simplicity of the gospel is laid out consistently and centrally in each book. These books do not delve into doctrinal specifics that vary greatly across congregations, denominations, and families (i.e. topics like the gifts of the Holy Spirit for believers today, or the role of women in the church, etc.) None of what we have studied has been from a divisive perspective but one that majors on some of the most important parts of what we believe. Apologia curriculum is excellent for those who like the notebooking journal style of learning. We used the Junior notebooking journals for the first level. It has lots of space for notes, activities, Scripture study, and even writing out prayers. However, we always end up going back to using the coloring books that are included with each level. Though I am sure they were intended for the younger audience, our oldest two daughters love to get out the colored pencils and color while Daddy reads aloud. The great thing about this worldview curriculum is the ability to draw in a broad range of ages without anyone feeling left out.

www.apologia.com

Torah Portions

Many will agree with my opinion that one of the best Torah resources for children is Children’s Torah Club, published by First Fruits of Zion ministries. Our children have used parts of this program in Shabbat classes since they were quite small. We have never gone through the entire program as a family, but this is another one of the back-burner programs I may use with the younger crew during the next Torah reading cycle. Activities, readings, puzzles, and the like are included in each lesson. Review can be incorporated as well, but it is not a strong point in this program considering most Messianic families go through the Torah portions every single year. Each Torah portion has its own 8 page packet. One of my favorite aspects of the program is that basic Hebrew is taught alongside each lesson. It should be noted that while there are gospel portions and haftarah portions included in FFOZ Torah reading schedules available each year, the additional readings are NOT a part of the curriculum of this Torah Club program. Parents would have to add in other readings and activities even though TC is written from a Messianic perspective. FFOZ states the recommended age level of Children’s Torah Club is 6-10 years old, but I think the age is a fair amount younger – perhaps 5-8, and my almost-4-year old would be easily able to work through many of the activities with my help. By the time my kids are 9 or 10, I believe they can and should be delving into deeper truths without the need for so many activities to hold their attention, but that is only based on what I have seen in our family.

www.ffoz.com

Jaelah is working through the Walk! Torah devotional studies during the Torah cycle this year. This is definitely a more mature program, at least at the high school level. I like it enough to consider using it for all the kids as they prepare for bar and bat mitzvah. There is a significant amount of reading, both in Scripture and through the commentary, but it pulls a great deal out of the text. It teaches some basic Hebrew and is Messianic in perspective. Jaelah is not ready for the level of the chumash yet, but I believe she will be well-prepared for it when she is done with the Walk! books, that is, if she wants to delve into the chumash on her own. An even more in-depth study on the Torah portions, one I was turned on to over 6 years ago and my own personal favorite is written by the Rabbi’s Son. I love his perspective, language, and inspiration, but since we aren’t yet using it for homeschooling study, that is a blog post for another day! These books DO include the Haftarah and B’rit Chadashah readings.

www.logos.com

Discipleship

Through the relationships we’ve developed at The Church at Ellerslie, we discovered a recently-launched project called Heroic Life Discipleship. It’s a curriculum aimed at training up children in a solid foundation of the Word that they might mature fully in Christ. The curriculum will ultimately cover all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation (in 8 semester sections) but for now only the first (Foundations), seventh (Our Sure Salvation), and eighth (The Exchanged Life) semesters are available with new semesters being rolled out over the next few years. Activity guides are provided along with the leader guide for each semester, and a student book for two separate age levels (age 4-7 and age 8-13) are available for each level as well. This means another great way for me to combine multiple age levels without having to add any hours to an already busy day. I am thrilled about this program because we have seen such an abundance of fruit from the training we’ve received at Ellerslie just by being a part of the body there. I know this curriculum will grow us in many ways as a family. We are starting with Foundations. I cannot comment on ease of use through the entire program, but from the samples I’ve read of the newly-released material, it will dovetail very nicely with Apologia’s worldview studies.

One of the aspects of Heroic Life Discipleship that excites me the most is the call to intercession for young ones in a practical way. Though we pray as a family, it has been a practice that has moved along in a clunky and sometimes uninspiring way – mainly because Pete and I had not developed from a young age the practice of praying in groups (or even individually) and collectively calling the promises and realities of Heaven down to earth. It is hard to pass on a discipline to children as parents when we ourselves have struggled to create a resilient habit. If the children can start young, however, I know that they will thrive in the truth that Yeshua dwells within them and they can develop a powerful prayer life in connecting with Him at all times. The other aspect of Heroic Life that I’m very excited about is that mighty men and women of the faith will be featured throughout the semesters. We utilize biographies in all areas of our homeschool study, but I cannot wait to delve into some of the lives of incredible people who build our faith through their testimony and encouragement. This format promises to highlight some true heroes whose stories I pray will burn in our children’s hearts.

www.heroiclifediscipleship.com

First Day of School 2017 Favorite ♥ Moments #7

Here we are embarking on our eighth year of being a homeschooling family. This year will bring some new challenges and new rewards. I look forward to the many hours of discussions we’ll have and watching wisdom and understanding grow in the eyes and words of my children even as their physical bodies grow.

Our family vision word for the year centers around life, particularly Yeshua’s life in us. We visited the theme of abundant life two years ago, but this time we are going deeper in the vein of Galatians 2:20. As a homeschooling mother, one of the things that stood out to me as we prayed about this idea of Christ in us and what that is supposed to look like was how Yeshua only did the things He saw His Father doing. My prayer for myself is that I would have eyes to see and a heart to understanding what Heavenly Father is doing in each of my children’s lives. I purpose to join my strength with His, moving and guiding the tender clay of these hearts in the direction He is headed with them. This means realizing anew how important heart connection is and how much more significant the education of the spirit is than that of the mind, though both are crucial to the development of well-rounded people. Relationship with Abba absolutely must be the priority of our school days. This means greater awareness, greater humility, and a greater willingness on my part to surrender those methods, books, curriculum, and explanations that do not fit with the vessels He is trying to shape. It is the very purpose of homeschooling – the freedom to let these tender plants be given the particular nutrients and atmosphere that match their specific needs without weeds getting mixed in and choking out life. But I have seen that I have tended toward forgetting some of the reasons I began to homeschool as I found myself in the weeds several times over this past school year. It is easy to be overwhelmed by options, especially as we enter those middle school years. I felt myself getting bogged down as I considered the burden upon my shoulders, until the Lord placed the very simple words on my heart as a focus for moving ahead – see what I am doing, and follow suit. My greatest desire is to refuse to let the good (even if it’s at the top of Cathy Duffy’s review list!) be the enemy of the best in how we spend our time. Oh, let every moment be redeemed as we navigate these deep waters!

This is my prayerfully prepared list of curriculum for the various ages and stages for the year. Even as I have pored over the books and lesson plans, the thought that thrills me the most is that the scary parts of entering the years of what I have always thought of as “serious” school are seen as nothing more than a thrilling adventure to Yeshua. From His view, He gets to teach me to walk further out on the water than I have before. He gets to draw the children away to Himself ever more this year as they themselves learn to look over the edge of the boat at those tall waves, perhaps hearing for the first time the whisper to come out and trust the hand of God on their own. Press on toward His voice, little children!

Jaelah & Selah – 7th grade
One of changes this year will be laying aside Latin (after working on it for 3 years) and picking up the pursuit of Spanish. I considered having the girls learn the two languages alongside each other, but since we are not on the path of reading Cicero or Virgil in the original Latin (though I admit I thought of it in a romantic daydream or two as a young homeschooling mother starting out years ago), the Latin grammar we have learned thus far has served its purpose and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do two languages. They will be doing some vocabulary exercises separately to stay fresh. Since we are weaving a Great Books experience rather than a history focus as most highschools do, I am steering us through Veritas Press transition history and literature to brush up and fill in any gaps. We likely will be transitioning from Sonlight to Omnibus (unless I find something comparable) so that we can experience some of the great thinkers and works together as a family in the future. The other major addition this year will be the study of formal logic and the first course of Apologia’s upper level science, as well as a civics course that they will complete with Chavah.

Jaelah – Walk! Torah portion devotionals (as part of bat mitzvah preparation and Bible)
Selah – Veritas Press Bible Old Testament
Teaching Textbooks – finish Pre-Algebra, start Algebra 1 (might switch back to Math-U-See; not sure yet)
IEW Fix-It Grammar – finish book 3, start book 4
Writing With Skill – finish book 1, start book 2
IEW SICC-B composition course
Wordly Wise – book 5 & 6
Introductory Logic
Apologia General Science
Veritas Press Transition History & Literature
Uncle Sam & You
Rosetta Stone Spanish
Various health & development books

Chavah – 5th grade
This will be a challenging year for Chavah. I’ve purposely held back quite a bit to wait for her ability to really dig in to develop enough that it corresponds with what I expect of her. While she still would rather do just about anything than sit still in a desk, she has been giving hints for quite a few months now that she’s ready for more. My plan is to allow her a lot of movement and freedom in where and how she wants to learn as long as she completes what is laid out for her (i.e. under the table in a blanket fort is a favorite these days). We’ll probably have to tweak as we go along, but I’ve seen some encouraging development in Chimmy, particularly as she’s started participating more in family devotional discussions and literature talks each afternoon with me and the older girls. She simply needs the time and space to think about how she wants to express her thoughts. And she can’t WAIT to do fractions in math, which makes me giggle.

Veritas Press Bible Old Testament
Math U See – Epsilon, start Zeta
IEW Fix-It Grammar – book 1, start book 2
Writing With Ease – finish book 3, start book 4
IEW SWI-A composition course
All About Spelling – finish book 6, start book 7
Wordly Wise – book 1 & 2
Apologia science – Zoology 2, start Zoology 3
Legends & Leagues geography – north & south books
Story of the World – books 1, 2, and 3
Light Keepers – biographical reading
Uncle Sam & You
Listen in to literature read-alouds with Jaelah & Selah
Rosetta Stone Spanish

Hosannah & Noah – 3rd grade
The twins have expressed a greater interest in more history and science reading, so I am combining them with many of Chavah’s subjects to both save time and inspire them more this year. They have a great handle on reading and basic math, so need less of Mom looking right over their shoulders constantly. I look forward to letting them take a little more independent ownership of their learning this year. They are just starting their Latin journey, which I have found helps SO much in learning English grammar, albeit indirectly. We are doing First Language Lessons right alongside Prima Latina to make sure we don’t miss any language arts highlights as well.

Veritas Press Bible Old Testament
Math U See – finish Beta, start Gamma
First Language Lessons – book 3, start book 4
Writing With Ease – finish book 1, start book 2
IEW Bible Heroes composition course
All About Spelling – finish book 3, start book 4
All About Reading – finish level 4, move to Sonlight chapter readers
Prima Latina, start Latina Christiana I
Wordly Wise – book A & B
Apologia science – Zoology 2, start Zoology 3
Legends & Leagues geography – north & south books
Story of the World – books 1, 2, and 3
Copywork for Little Girls & Boys

Ketziah – preschool
Veritas Press Bible Old Testament
Usborne Wipe-Clean Books – handwriting & pen-control, alphabet, numbers
All About Reading – finish level Pre-1, start Level 1
Classical Math to music – addition & subtraction songs
Wordly Wise K & 1 – vocabulary picture cards

This year already has quite a bit of curriculum scheduled into it, but we have a lot of extracurricular learning opportunities as well. The oldest girls plan to continue with Bible Quiz Fellowship as they’ve really enjoyed being on a team and memorizing the book of Luke with a group of young people this year. All five of the older kids are still going to be doing our homeschool all day co-op classes on Fridays. We are also planning to continue doing string music with Shir Yaffeh, the youth orchestra the kids have been a part of for a couple of years. As far as family devotions, we are going very slowly through Apologia’s worldview books. They are so excellent and incredibly meaty, so it is taking us far longer to complete them than I had originally planned. No matter! Daddy loves getting to guide the children in laying foundations of truth. Another book we’re incorporating around the dinner table is Manners Made Easy, a book which covers a manner per day for 365 days. Our family lacks in some key social graces that are hard to ignore due simply to the sheer number of people in our family, and I believe an easy way to remedy this is to provide instruction that makes it fun and feasible to have manners. Bite-sized tidbits each day for a year fit the bill perfectly.

I look forward to this year’s journey. The moments are precious, the lives I touch daily infinitely more so. I’ve embraced the hum of noise that will fill my days, a cacophony that lately has sounded far less chaotic and is beginning to harmonize more like a beautiful symphony. The tones only become discordant when I take my eyes off Him, so may I live in HIS LIFE this year!

A 10th birthday blessing for my second daughter

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My precious girl, you are finally here at this day you’ve looked forward to for such a long time! I myself can hardly believe how swiftly these years with you have flown by. The way you entered the world is the way you live your life. You came to us on a windy, golden November morning with no warning, appearing within 2 hours of the first hint of your arrival and full to the brim with passion, strength, and determination.

You have never been one to let a difference of a mere 16 months between you and your older sister hold you back. I remember that even at age 2, you couldn’t bear the thought of not getting to start school with Jaelah and thus you have been right in the middle of the activity ever since. I have enjoyed se2016-11-15 17.28.27-1.jpgeing you rise to every occasion that life has brought your direction. You have a love of words and writing that is inspiring, a wisdom beyond your years, and a mind that loves to question and investigate. I am often touched by the depth you glean out of things we discuss, and I love that you have such a love for the precision of truth. I believe God is going to develop you in a great way in the years to come so that you are well-prepared to be a vessel of His glory on this earth wherever you go and whatever you do.

My prayer for you as  you enter into this very special season of your life is that you would never shy away from learning and growing – even when that process is facilitated by mistakes and those pieces of life that are often hard understand. You can trust that your heavenly Abba holds you fast in His hand. There are so many brand new experiences that await you as the world opens up to you in ways it has never revealed before. Your dad and I commit to protecting your heart and yet also allowing your creativity to take its place in the root system of who you are as you embrace this next part of growing up. I pray for contentment and rest in the deepest part of you. As second-born, most experiences will have already been had in our household by the time you get to them. I know this has been tough for you as you have such a desire to keep up and not miss a thing. Yet, always remember that they are your firsts and each one is unique because of who you are and the perspective you have that is different and a blessing in its own way. God has placed you exactly where you need to be. Trust Him!

May Yeshua continue to lead you into a deeper understanding of what it means to find your all in Him and Him alone. Truly, those who love this life will lose it, yet those who set aside what this life offers in exchange for life in the true Vine will never be disappointed. I believe that it is never too early to water this seed that we have endeavored to plant deep in your heart. Daddy and I have been given the precious and awesome responsibility of guarding your eternal soul while you journey on this earth. While we are far from perfect, I hope that you will trust us to guide you on this next part of your pilgrimage.

May your relationship with the Lord come first – before your education, your abilities, and even your future. What He can mold your life into is more beautiful than you can imagine if you entrust everything to Him and seek Him first. I love you so much!

This family prepares for bat mitzvah

We are still about two years away from Jaelah’s bat mitzvah and yet it is finally time for preparations to begin! This has been a much-anticipated time in our household. The children look at this process of being released into “grown-up-hood” as a treasured time. Though there are some fun privileges in our family that we’ve associated with bat-mitzvah season, such as finally getting to wear make-up, the heart process of a child taking ownership of her relationship with the Lord is the primary purpose of becoming a bat mitzvah, or “daughter of the commandments.”

As our spiritual and emotional preparations begin with our eldest child, I am in continual awareness that these precious souls are only loaned to us for a short time. Being released into the responsibility of one’s own walk with God for the rest of her life is a tremendous time of blessing, a journey that must be walked with a knowledge of its holiness coupled with rejoicing as we are draw nearer to that special day.

There are many books we want to read through in the coming months, and with my big stack it’s obvious that we will need every last week of the next couple of years. More than just book knowledge, however, now is a time of discovering and expressing in a greater fullness the unique gifting and personality God has equipped Jaelah with.

There are few bat/bar mitzvah programs and books I have found that emphasize the New Covenant in its fullness. A Torah-submissive lifestyle is something our family wholeheartedly embraces, yet the walk of faith and redemption all of our children must eventually choose for themselves is much more than living out commandments in a practical way. It is finding oneself utterly dependent upon Yeshua for everything and choosing to follow Him with everything, submitted in heart AND action. Technically, I suppose, we will be having a bat b’rit chadashah (daughter of the New Covenant) ceremony for Jaelah.

Here are some of the categories and resources we’ve chosen to incorporate into our family’s bar/bat mitzvah training. Some might end up left by the wayside while others will be a go-to for all seven of our kiddos. I’m sure I’ll find some other treasures along the way to add to our collection as we launch Jaelah into adulthood.

First things first. In our family, one responsibility we will require of our children before their covenant ceremonies will be to read through the entire Bible. We’ve read through most of the Bible already incorporating it into our school day, but as we are approaching a new Torah cycle we have decided to help Jaelah go deeper with it at a level not too far above her understanding yet challenging in just the right way. Daddy and Jaelah will be going through not only the weekly Scripture portions together this year, but also working through the Walk! devotional commentaries on the Torah, Haftarah, and B’rit Chadashah readings. Since this study will take a fair amount of time daily, I am going to count it as Bible credit for school as well.

Devotion to Yeshua in spite of what the world does and says is difficult, particularly for those not living with the religious freedoms we have in the US. I don’t want to overwhelm Jaelah’s extremely compassionate heart with violence unnecessarily, but the history of believers is fraught with stories of incredible conviction in the face of persecution, imprisonment, and death. These true stories can be gripping and build faith in spite of the difficulty of reading them. Missions and the persecuted church is already something we discuss regularly in homeschool, but now Jaelah will be reading through Voice of the Martyrs’ publication Extreme Devotion. It has short, daily readings, with devotional-type questions. Many of the stories are taken from Fox’s Book of Martyrs, a book I am reserving for high school.

The Hebrew roots of our faith is not a new discussion topic around here, and yet there are many specific theological and doctrinal topics that we would like to help Jaelah understand more than she does now. Hebrew roots is an extraordinarily complex subject, so we will be taking portions from the following books and presenting them to Jaelah in the “cliff notes” versions. Other than developing very basic skills of exegesis (which has been extremely successful so far with the Discover 4 Yourself series of Bible study books by Kay Arthur), my main desire is to create a framework from which she can continue to build throughout young adulthood and beyond. Even as a college student, I struggled through Samuele Bacchiochi’s From Sabbath to Sunday, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t present the bullet points to her now. Though she could technically read through all of them and maybe gain some insights, I plan to use these books as school curriculum towards the end of high school because I want her maturity to be at a level where she can more readily understand and incorporate them into her belief system: Holy Cow! by Hope Egan, Our Hands are Stained with Blood by Dr. Michael Brown, From Sabbath to Sunday by Samuele Bacchiochi, Too Long in the Sun by Richard Rives, Fellow Heirs and The Letter Writer by Tim Hegg, and The Mystery of the Gospel and Grafted In by Daniel Lancaster.

While many of the resources I just listed will give a great intro into the Hebrew roots of our faith, they assume that a basis for Christ’s divinity and identity as Savior has already been established and accepted. The framework of Messianic faith must be laid upon the foundation of Christ. To really help her solidify her understanding of God the Creator and Yeshua His Son, Jaelah will be going through Lee Strobel’s excellent “Case for…” series, which is geared toward students. We’ll read The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, as well as The Case for a Creator.

One part of bat mitzvah training that begins now and will go on for several more years involves both purity and modesty (in body and heart) as well as godly relationships with the opposite sex. I’ve read several books on purity that devote more time to defining what types of clothing are truly modest than to developing the purity of heart and mind. Instead of slapping on a maxi skirt and billowy blouse and calling it “modest” I want Jaelah to see that there is much more to how she displays herself to the world. What motivates her? What parts of the culture does she allow to influence how she thinks about herself? How will she define beauty? Does modest begin and end with the clothing on one’s body, or does it actually pertain even to speech and attitude? How does she feed her definitions of these things – from the world or from God’s Word revealed through Holy Spirit? All these questions will continue to be asked long past a bat mitzvah ceremony, but I want to start laying the foundation even now. First, we will go through Leslie Ludy’s Lost Art of True Beauty, which is geared toward younger women. For lighter reading that provides encouragement about a variety of things related to godly young women, from modesty to devotion time to gossip, we’re subscribing to the Set Apart Girl magazine that comes out bi-monthly. These magazines are exquisitely done and are so good that we will get the hard copies instead of the electronic version so we’ll always have them at hand. When we’re ready for a bit more depth on relationship study, which probably will be much closer to when Jaelah is 13, we will read Elisabeth Elliott’s Passion and Purity. I would say it’s a timeless book on relationship and purity, though it still has some material that will not pertain for awhile yet. Another book that is a bit advanced but will be on our shelf is Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally. Despite what the title might suggest, it’s actually a book geared toward becoming a young woman who focuses more on who she is becoming in Christ than on what young men she attracts. It’s still not really on the radar for us, but I like having resources at the ready for topics like this.

As Jaelah develops her spiritual and motivational gifts, we will go through Don and Katie Fortune’s Discover Your Child’s Gifts. This book has tests that will help both Jaelah and us as her parents to see the particular way she views the world and how to help her find the place she will fit in the Body of Messiah. Some of the things we want to incorporate for Jaelah will be service-oriented and involve mission trips and helping with different ministry tasks over the next couple of years. We’ll be looking for things that help to turn book knowledge into wisdom through life experience. While somewhat more difficult to plan out than pages to read in books, I look forward to this aspect of Jaelah’s development as a believer and soon-to-be daughter of the covenant.

Braces and a cradle swing

There’s a cradle swing laying at the foot of the cross. Next to it is an itty-bitty pair of leopard sandals with pink flowers on them, brand-new and only worn once. There’s a tiny pink baby blow-up pool. There’s a Bumbo seat and a play mat with well-loved teething toys. There’s a bassinet that won’t be used anymore, and a rocking chair that has served its purpose for many years – the permanent indentation of my rear end on the seat. All these little things, discards of a precious season of my life that is quickly slipping away. Tomorrow my eldest “baby” will be getting braces. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she lost her first tooth? I clearly remember coming home from a Yom Kippur service and breaking our fast together as a family. She came up to me with big, brave tears barely held back in her eyes, silently showing me the tiny white speck in her little hand.

I find myself trying to hold each moment of these little ones in my hands, to truly see each one before it slips through my fingers and is gone forever. I want to firmly imprint on my heart the faces of my children as they are right now; their funny little words and thoughts I want to etch deeply into my soul. I am seeking to be present with each heartache, fear, and victory. We are in the midst of an awkward stage, one that I see as a launch pad into the next season of our lives as a family. Just as pregnancy and birth can be painful and frustrating, tight and restricting, it is the picture I get when envisioning what God is doing in us right now. Because I had my first five children in four years, it seems like whenever there is a new season on the horizon, they ALL enter it at just about the same time, and then they ALL leave it at just about the same time. In one big whirlwind, they’ll ALL have driver’s licenses. They ALL grew out of the wooden train set in one summer. As I write this, they are ALL leaving the itty-bitty stage behind.

On one hand I have five children with newly-budding maturity and potential that has yet to be fully-realized but is almost bursting out at the seams. They are PEOPLE with their own ideas and gifts! No longer are we only faithfully keeping our hands to the plow, planting seeds that we know won’t show green sprouts for quite some time. Now those green shoots are starting to show! On the other hand, I have a three-year-old who wants to “do school” already, and a baby who is suddenly okay with Pete holding her even when I’m in plain sight. She’s daily adding favorite activities to what used to be a one-item list with “nursing” at the top.

Perhaps it is my perspective that has created what I see as a great chasm between “baby” and “young adult getting married and leaving home.” Is it because I have been doing this for so long that now that it’s almost over I feel like I’ve lost my footing and that there really is a huge leap between this season and the next one? I don’t think I have ever met another mother who cried when she donated her cradle swing. I did, though. I completely fell apart when I laid Tirzah in it for a nap the other day while at my grandma’s house. She slept peacefully in it for three hours. I kept sneaking in to look at her cherub cheeks while she swayed in dreamland. As I was loading the swing back into my van, I realized that was probably the last nap she’ll ever have in her swing. Technically, she has been too big for it for a few months now even though it’s been her very favorite place to sleep. We gave the swing away to a friend the very next day. Which means my days of cradle swings are over. Just like that. I was wiping tears off my cheeks, trying not to freak my children out, reminiscing over the years of how cradle swings have saved our sanity as parents. We’ve run out at 3 a.m. to get D batteries, we’ve taken the swing apart and loaded in into our tiny car trunk, dragged it from room to room, and had to replace it a time or two. Every one of our children has loved the cradle swing. And right then, I have to lay it at the foot of the cross. Surrender it willingly, with full awareness of what it represents. Can a heart burst with gratitude for sharing such a gift as creating life with my heavenly Father?

While my children are growing up before me, I’ve discovered that this new season is a birthing process for me as well. I added up all the months and years of nursing, pregnancy, and having a small baby at home and realized I’ve been doing this for nearly twelve years straight. My very body has belonged to other people for more than a decade. Because I have died so completely to myself and my own life, I almost don’t recognize the person who is starting to emerge. Looking back, I see how sometimes I’ve willingly surrendered myself to Yeshua’s purpose for me in motherhood and other times I’ve held back until He’s had to pry “me” from my hands. The woman I see coming out of this season is no longer a vessel for new life but an incubator for kingdom fruitfulness. My journey of dying to self and serving my family is far from over; the mothering yet required of me will be challenging in unimaginable ways. But I am not tethered to the same kind of vulnerability anymore. There will be a day soon when I am going about my work without a baby on my hip. Just when I was starting to get comfortable with what was being required of me, indeed had finally even embraced it with both arms, the game has changed and I must learn completely new rules.

The question that has come to mind over and over again during this past year is, “am I present enough?” Am I embracing this, experiencing it, appreciating it enough? Do I hear clearly what the Lord is saying to me in this, or am I distracted and trying to just survive it? As we are closing this door and go into the next place, is our heart posture one of trust? How many moments have I lost already “just getting by” not realizing I was witnessing a holy and sacred impartation of God’s character and creativity into my life? His fingerprints are all over my life through these children. I have only to open my eyes to see them. Because I am living with heart-eyes wide open, there is a certain necessary grief to the passing of this season. In fact, it has not been without many, many tears. Pete was praying for God to show us His heart even in the sadness and what he heard was not new, yet was revealed in an amazing way. God has invited us into the process of procreation for His own glory. Our children are not ours; they are His. He has placed us right where we are so that we can equip them to bear fruit – for HIS kingdom. In so doing, we produce fruit in our own lives and that is what prayerfully produces the hundredfold abundance we desire to see in all our lives. This is how we prove we are His disciples, as Yeshua exhorts us in John 15:8. Yeshua has asked me if I will lend Him my body, my life, for the purpose of creating fruit for His kingdom that goes far beyond what I could imagine. I have no idea what that will look like in this next season of motherhood. But as I release these little trinkets of my children’s childhood back to Him, release their very lives back to Him, I confess that it was never about me at all. This has always been about His glory. How gratitude flows when I acknowledge that He owns my life and yet has let me share in this amazing gift.