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The COVID-19 pandemic has produced many first-time homeschool parents. This edited Q&A is the fourth in a series in which we pose questions about home education to several experts. In this installment, Kristyn Getty, John Kwasny, Cathy Duffy, and Mystie Winckler describe how best to help and encourage homeschoolers. (Click here for a short biography of each.)
Kristyn, how can singing help grow kids’ faith?
Kristyn: In the way that we teach our kids to pray and read the Word, I think we should teach our kids to sing. Scripture time and again calls us to sing. So it’s an important part of raising our kids in the Lord.
Many parents might say, Yeah, but I’m tired. I don’t want another thing to do.
Well, hymn singing can replace other things. We used to read the Jesus Storybook Bible at night, but we found out that it works better for us to read the Bible in the morning. In the evening, I play hymns on my phone as my kids go to bed. It goes a long way to filling them up with the Bible.
How do you choose your hymns?
When our girls were small, we started learning a hymn a month. We sing it together over the course of a month and learn as much as we can. Some hymns they love, like “Softly and Tenderly” and “His Mercy Is More.” I think we only memorized one line of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” But we’ll come back to it.
Our hymn this month is “Abide With Me.” Last night, I went through the first verse with them. I said, “Gracie, what does abide mean? What does it mean to be helpless?” We talked about those ideas, we sang it together, and I played it while they fell asleep. I like to make sure we pray with them. But one night recently I said, “We’re singing the doxology, and we’re calling it a day.” Sometimes that’s all I reach for when it’s been a hard day.
So when you sing with your kids at night, you’re giving them a touchstone for years to come. You’re giving them vocabulary.
Kristyn: And words to pray. We often pray in the language of our hymns. What we sing is so important to our spiritual development. How we understand the faith. How we share it and speak about it. I try to find songs that develop a Christian worldview. Songs that present God as creator. Songs that present the gospel story and the hope of heaven. I also look for songs that connect theology to everyday life and are fun to sing. Hymns like “Hallelujah Thine the Glory.” Or “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I love telling my kids, “I sang that song when I was a little girl. Granny and Grandad sang that at their wedding. Now you’re going to sing it, and as you go through your life, you’ll add your stories and remember God’s faithfulness, too.”
Thanks for those suggestions, and for the many resources on your website that can help parents find good hymns. I’d like to talk now about mornings. How can families start the day well?
John: We start our breakfast with a short devotional. We don’t try to make that full-fledged Bible time. Just a short reading to make sure we’re joining hands and praying for 10 minutes for all the people in our lives. We keep it simple.
Mystie: We do something we call “Morning Time.” We sit down together. We read the proverb of the day. We sing the songs from church so that the children can participate in worship. We sometimes learn a catechism, and we read through story Bibles, that sort of thing. Doing this over the last 14 years, I find it so beautiful to review and remember those basic truths.
What about the rest of the day? How can we strengthen kids’ faith while they learn at home and online?
Cathy: Stop to pray in the middle of the day when something happens. That’s so important. It teaches them prayer is part of life. It’s not something we have to keep for after school.
John: Sometimes homeschool parents will have greater freedom to choose resources written from a Christian worldview. I was the worldview specialist at our Christian school, and when I talked to the teachers, I used a simple analogy. I’d say, “You’re putting a set of glasses on your students. Those glasses will either help your kids see the world through a Biblical worldview or a secular worldview.” So, think bigger about homeschooling and get resources that fit your values. Maybe consider an at-home Bible curriculum like the one I wrote.
Cathy, you’ve helped families find resources to fit their values for many years. How do you do that?
Cathy: I published several books for years. In them, I tried to help parents find educational resources to fit their teaching style, their children’s learning style, even their religious and political perspectives. Today, all of that is on my website.
So, how can families learn more about a Christian worldview?
Cathy: The Apologia series on worldview called Who Is God? is great for Protestant families. The family-friendly stories and instruction mixed together are very strongly Scriptural. If you’re Catholic, you can use something like Connecting With History. That’s strongly worldview-based.
Mystie: Reading books aloud can be helpful, too. If you read something like Little House on the Prairie to your kids, you’re going to see different reasons people make decisions. That helps you start thinking about why you make decisions and your own assumptions. Sometimes by approaching worldview in story form, you can receive it and think about it in a deeper way.
Cathy: I’m just starting a book club with my niece in Tennessee. She’s going to read Breaking Stalin’s Nose. I really love teaching worldview, and literature is a great way to do it. But it depends on you as the parent recognizing worldview and teachable points within a story. That’s where the series I mentioned can help. There are short-term studies as well as extensive ministries. Summit Ministries does nothing but worldview.
Even with the best resources, homeschooling involves setbacks and hard days. We’ll talk more about that next time. For now, any final advice?
Kristyn: We’re all struggling, and this is an incredibly unusual time. But I’d also say, don’t be scared to do these things with your kids. This is a season God has placed my kids under my roof, and we’re going to sing. We’re going to read the Bible. Both Keith and I think it’s important they learn these things, particularly now when our kids can’t go to Sunday school. So, we try to be consistent, knowing we’ll have to ask forgiveness. And I think over the long journey, the cream will rise to the top.
Kristyn Getty is a Christian songwriter, recording artist, and worship leader. She and her husband, Keith, have written many hymns and perform at venues around the world, including their annual Sing! conference in Nashville. They occasionally homeschool several of their four young children in Nashville and Northern Ireland. Find out more about their latest album, Evensong, at Gettymusic.com.
John Kwasny serves as director of Christian education and children’s ministries at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, Miss. He is also the director of One Story Ministries, authoring curriculum for children and youth such as Investigating God’s Word ... at Home. In addition to his five years as a Biblical counselor in private practice, John and his wife have homeschooled eight children over the last 23 years.
Cathy Duffy began reviewing curriculum for her own kids. Her research led to several popular books including 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. See Cathy’s latest top picks as well as thousands of curriculum reviews at her website, Cathy Duffy Reviews. Cathy homeschooled three boys and now resides in California.
Mystie Winckler founded the website Simply Convivial, a resource offering gospel-centered homemaking and homeschooling self-paced courses. Learn more about Mystie through her Help for Homemakers YouTube channel. Mystie homeschools five children and lives with her husband, Matt, in Washington state.