Family Gospel Rhythms- Part 1 Morning Liturgy

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Every day has it’s own difficulties, each day it’s own trials, also it’s own joys. Add a family, a spouse and loving and playful children to that and you have a whole different and new matter.  Family life is not all stress and toddler’s screams there is so much beauty in the fray but I definitely encourage centering when life is as busy and as harried as it is these days. My perfectly imperfect family needs it and I encourage families to embrace it. This two part series will talk about home school liturgy and Family Worship time. There are still truths for all families regardless the school choice that is best for your family and feel free to incorporate Gospel Rhythms that work for you.

“The Bible is the chief lesson–“But we are considering, not the religious life of children, but their education by lessons; and their Bible lessons should help them to realise in early days that the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and, therefore, that their Bible lessons are their chief lessons.” Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1

I call it Family Gospel Rhythms. These rhythms are the efforts we take each day to center ourselves on Christ as a family. You may have heard of the phrase Family Worship or Family Devotion before and in Homeschool circles you may be aware of “Circle Time” or “Morning Liturgy” -as I call it-. I hear the terms quite often and I run an instagram and online community called Charlotte Mason Living, so, the questions have been posed a lot lately, “what does Morning Liturgy look like?”, “What does Family Worship look like?”. So, I will show you what we do for both, not as an example but as an encouragement to find what fits for your family. Part one will be about Morning Liturgy and part two will cover Family Worship (Night-time).

“Home is the greatest of all institutions” -Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Now, let me discuss why we do both firstly. I do not think it is necessary in most families to have a morning and night time session of “worship” or “bible time”, what have you. We homeschool so part of our education is biblical, so, Morning Liturgy is part of our school day and led by myself, only. Mom is setting the tone for the school day as Mother and Teacher and Dad leads our Family in Worship at night as Shepherd of the Home. I’m only breaking them into two parts for brevity.

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Morning Liturgy

In my yearly “homeschool this year” posts I always share what we do for every subject, so you may have heard me discuss some of these resources. I consider our Morning Liturgy a subject in three parts. We do Morning Liturgy as part of our homeschool education and this includes Catechism/ Scripture Memory, Habits and Bible. I am sharing resources and what we adapt to make it fit within our homeschool educational philosophy (Charlotte Mason).

It is:

Catechism – This term may be unfamiliar to you so here is what a Catechism is

“So, what is it anyway? The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katācheō, which means “to teach, to instruct.” The word is used in Bible passages like Luke 1:4 and Acts 18:25. It can be used for any kind of teaching or instruction, but it came to refer to a specific type of teaching very early in church history. In the early church, new converts were taught the basics of Christianity by memorizing a series of questions and answers. – North Star Catechism

A catechism is just that a series of questions and answers that teach Bible truth.” – North Star Catechism

There are many wonderful versions of Catechisms to choose from and many will be based on the Westminster or Heidelberg Catechisms. Make sure your choice lines up with your family’s belief system by pre-reading and sometimes (not always) wikipedia can be really useful for looking at the history and what’s: Catechisms. We use the North Star Catechism from SojournKids. We feel it is an excellent catechism that is accessible and built upon trusted Catechisms without dumbing down any biblical truths.

Each morning we do Catechism Review and Scripture Memory of scriptures that are listed with our Catechism.

For example:

  • God exists forever as how many persons? Three. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

So we slowly progress with our Catechism as we memorize. There is no rush to breeze through it. Excellence is a much better friend and habit than the amount or speed that your child knows. ‘

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  – Aristotle

I require recitation often (every morning) and sometimes when we are reading something related I’ll ask if that reminds my oldest of something but most times she will point out the similarities on her own or will comment on the world’s circumstances from what she has learned. Like this week in Family Worship singing Holy, Holy, Holy as our hymn we recognized that this line “Who was, and is, and evermore shall be” reminded us of our Catechism verse for Q. 4 Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Children make connections and thankfully if we allow them to do them on their own, the thoughts are better remembered than from lectures or belaboured talks.

…we have relations with what there is in the present and with what there has been in the past, with what is above us, and about us; and that fullness of living and serviceableness depend for each of us upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of. Every child is heir to an enormous patrimony. -Charlotte Mason

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Bible- We teach the Bible because it is the greatest living book.


That the Bible isn’t mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

That the Bible is most of all a story — the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

That — in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him — God won’t ever stop loving his children… with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

That the Bible, in short, is a Story — not a Rule Book — and there is only one Hero in the Story.- Sally Lloyd Jones

Practically, this looks like every morning breaking open the word for our Morning Time you could do this by simply making a reading plan or following one and having your child narrate what they have heard.

Personally, we use a resource called Long Story Short by Marty Machowski from New Growth Press (LSS). This resource goes through all of the Old Testament while pointing to Christ in the New Testament. There is a second volume going through the New Testament once completed. There is the Gospel Story Bible you can use as a companion, we do, but it is not necessary.

This resource is not a Charlotte Mason resource, per say, so I modify to make it fit our educational philosophy because it was the resource that best suited our belief needs. Instead of asking the questions when I have completed the reading I have my daughter narrate (simply, telling it back in their own words) for better memory and it works best like narration always does. There is a bit of a summary following in the lesson book and I use it more as a guide for what I’m listening for in her narrations rather than something I read to her or if she has questions for me after narration, I might use it as a help for myself in answering those questions.

I use LSS as a reading plan mostly, reading the verses and requiring narration. Each week a theme such as “God creates Man” would have us reading, in this case, from Genesis 2  but also connecting New Testament verses, here specifically, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. This is the real reason I like this resource and as we are now in 1 Kings and nearing the end of the Old Testament the next volume mimics this structure by pairing the New Testament scripture with Old Testament verses. So the whole bible becomes a living body of a book. We have been going through the Old Testament for a few years and it has been a truly rich experience, feasting with my daughter on the word. She told me recently how excited she is to move into the New Testament and that joy makes me happy, truly.

“But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion. By degrees, they will see that the world is a stage whereon the goodness of God is continually striving with the willfulness of man; that some heroic men take sides with God; and that others, foolish and headstrong, oppose themselves to Him. The fire of enthusiasm will kindle in their breast, and the children, too, will take their side, without much exhortation, or any thought or talk of spiritual experience.” -Charlotte Mason, Vol 1

Habits- Habit training might be a new concept if you aren’t familiar with Charlotte Mason schooling but it’s an integral part. The forming of habits is an important practice and I am learning desperately needed in modern societies. We are all forming habits intentionally or not and we all struggle with bad habits. The point of habit formation is to see them for what they are and gently develop better ones. This has been as beneficial for myself as much as it has has been for my daughter.

“ ‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while.” — Charlotte Mason

We use a book from Simply Charlotte Mason called Laying Down the Rails for Children  for a help when needing relative living examples but also find beautiful stories and poems to read.

Thus, don’t begin with teaching the habit of (insert habit here)   – begin with the relationships, appropriate books, ideas, outdoor life, and all those things that fill the child with ideas that make up this living education. – Nancy Kelly

Many Charlotte Mason families study a habit for a specific set time and some families take a more organic approach. We have done both and find the latter to be a better fit for us and move through habits as we see fit. My oldest is nine and we have recently been learning about a habit of “Sweet and Even Temper”. This has been an excellent habit to cover since she has struggled recently with strong emotions that manifest in bad temper. We aren’t always covering habits she specifically struggles with but might park a bit on one if I think she could use it to fully understand. For example we stayed many moons in the Habit of Obedience and revisit it often since the temper and obedience seem to have a lot of crossover. Reading the lovely living poems and stories help her a lot to frame the habits in her mind because she sees the contrasts clearly through listening and narration that she would completely miss through me just telling her that she should do this or that. I am thankful because I also learn from these lessons, it is too much to expect my children to act better than I do myself.

So this is what we do for Morning Liturgy and sometimes days are less than smooth and distractions attempt to divide our mind but know that families learning together, teaching your children to love God and his word is an effort worth taking, my very imperfect family needs it.

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The “promises of the covenant necessitate Christian education, because they inevitably impose upon our children a heavy responsibility…for God has enriched them with spiritual treasures in order that they should administer this wealth for the honor of his name and for the extension of his kingdom. Are we warranted in assuming that they will naturally be faithful to their trust and will make the best possible use of their God-given possessions?…Surely, we cannot be too careful or too diligent in training our children for their responsible duties in life” – Louis Berkhof

Resources from above:

North Star Catechism from Sojourn

Long Story Short by Marty Machowski

The Gospel Story Bible

Laying Down the Rails for Children by Sonya Schafer

Other Resources I recommend personally:

New City Catechism

Desiring God: A Baptist Catechism

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones

A Child’s Book of Character Training by Ron and Rebekah Coriell

 

 

 

 

Catechising your children, why you should.

This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God-we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection. ― Charlotte M. Mason

I am not a perfect parent. In fact I may be the picture of “imperfect parent”. And, that is ok. I do not need to be perfect when I have a perfect, risen, Christ. That is why I am so eager to help my children understand the truths of the Bible. A Catechism is an excellent tool for imperfect parents to prod their children toward Truth, Beauty and Goodness. This post is my argument toward Catechising your children, with a bit of my experience so far.

Emma, my oldest, is 8 and this child has one million questions about life and plus some. I have gone into a bit of a panic mode lately as she is growing and changing and is looking more like a little lady than a baby, in my eyes. But, I know I can have  confidence in Christ and in the truths we have been teaching her.

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Every home school morning, we have Liturgy. Liturgy for us is a Hymn, our Bible Lesson, a discussion of Habits and finally our Catechism. I will delve into Liturgy on a different post but for now I have linked to the individual items we use.

We have been using the North Star Catechism for a few years now, and I have been very happy with it. It clearly written with impeccable content.

Our kids need to have their faith firmly rooted in doctrine that has weathered the centuries. For thousands of years, travelers have been guided on their journey by a fixed point in the night sky: the North Star. While other stars appear to shift with the passing of time, the North Star remains anchored. This gift allows travelers to know where they are and where they need to go. Like its celestial namesake, our prayer is that the North Star Catechism will like be a faithful guide for the next generation. — North Star Catechism

You can also get a free pdf of the Catechism from Sojourn Kids along with some other resources available.

So, we delve into these questions and Emma is hearing and learning. We memorize the questions, answers and corresponding verses. Once she has memorized a verse we put it in a rotation to revisit it, so it doesn’t completely disappear from her memory.

I wish we had started earlier. The North Star Catechism gives age suggestions for each part but since we only started a few years back we are just progressing at our own pace and I am not as worried about the age range or else we’d have to cram to be able to catch up since the ranges start at about three. I encourage to start at any age, of course earlier is better but don’t feel you have missed your chance.

I have transferred the questions and verses to index cards and we go through a few every morning.

So there is the How, but Why do we Catechise? This from John Piper:

Why is it important?

  1. We are required to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast” (Col. 1:23).
  2. We are urged to “attain to the unity of the… knowledge of the Son of God…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:13-14).
  3. There are many deceivers (1 John 2:26).
  4. There are difficult doctrines “which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).
  5. Leaders must be raised up who can “give instruction in sound doctrine and also confute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

We believe these are excellent reasons to continue on. We have done the Catechism for a few years now and in the first few I wondered “Does she get it?”. Well, sometimes, you will see how your children “get it” during interesting and unexpected conversations. My daughter surprised me when we were discussing why someone was going to jail. I said in my worldliness that they were a bad person and did some bad things. She responds with “Mama, but, No one is truly Good except God.” (Q.6) and of course that, at first, surprises me and then leads to excellent discussion. Because, she is right and I am glad she heard this truth repeatedly and can tell it to me even when I need to hear it.

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Another instance was recently a very bittersweet conversation that arose. She said that she liked the President but asked why sometimes people dislike him and asked if I liked him. I said I loved him and that we should love our President and pray for him no matter if we disagree on things. She asked me what I disagreed on and I responded that the biggest thing was that our President is Pro-Choice and our family is Pro-Life. I knew that there would be a time we would need to talk about this but I didn’t expect it to be on a Saturday nature walk. So, of course she asked me what it meant. I asked her if she would be ok to talk about it because it was really sad. She said yes and I explained to her the awful truth of what Abortion is. She looked at me sadly and said “Well, Mama, that is wrong because God made everything and me (Q.1) and made those babies too, and we need to take care of them.” It was a sad conversation but I was hopeful in her answer to me and it made me happy to know she is actually “getting it.”

 

 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. —Ephesians 6:12-13

 

There are many more instances of my child speaking truth when things seem scary, dark and uncertain and I pray that there will be many more instances where she can see this light of truth and speak it with confidence. This is why we Catechise. Darkness is all around and the only remedy is breath-taking light.

The key is becoming convinced that you are furnishing your child with the mental foundation on which the rest of his or her spiritual life will be built. Or, to switch metaphors, you are laying the kindling and the logs in the fireplace, so that when the spark of the Holy Spirit ignites your child’s heart, there will be a steady, mature blaze. — Kathy Keller

I can only pray that light revealed to my child’s heart will be a mature blaze one day. I am thankful for resources like the North Star Catechism. I basically don’t know what I am doing as a parent, but none of us do. I know the only way I can combat my parental and general ignorance is through the Wisdom found in His Word and sharing that Word with my children is what I am called to do as a parent to these image-bearers of God.