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The Home Schooling Family: How Should We Spend Our Time?

  • Julie Austin,
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I am often asked to help people in scheduling their families. Because of this, I have written out some things to consider when making a household schedule.

Our over arching principle for life is: To live all of life for the glory of God. All the things we do must therefore come under this heading or...we shouldn't do it.

A Covenantal Family

A covenantal family is a unit, which works together towards its purpose. It is not a group of individuals who are pursuing their own goals and who then come together at night to sleep under the same roof.... like a hotel. A covenant family is a place of purposeful living, mutual nurturing, and beautiful worship to King Jesus, our reigning Lord. Therefore, all that we do, we do under the Biblical instruction for family.

The father is the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church. The father, therefore, is ultimately responsible for everything that occurs in the life of his family. If a ship hits a rock, the captain is the one who is responsible, even if he was not at the helm at the time of the collision. The father must make it his business to know what his children are learning, whose care and guidance they are under, what outside influences they are experiencing, and what the set goals of achievement are for each of his children. He is responsible for training them in the ways of the Lord, reading the Bible to them and discussing doctrine with them daily. He must live the SHEMA (Deut. 6:4-9).

The mother is the helper to the father. Woman was made for the man not the man for the woman. She must show herself to be trustworthy in all areas. She must live her life for her God and for her husband. She must help in the education and training of her children and keep her husband abreast of all that her children are learning and areas where they are weak and need help. Her job is for the ultimate good for her husband and family, to provide for their needs and make her husband look good, not point out his weaknesses to others. Her goal should never be separate from that of her husband. Pursuing a career apart from the family is absurd. Her husband and family are her career.

The children must be taught discipline and reverence to God and to the authority He has placed above them. Children are taught daily either in a positive Biblical way, or in a way that will reinforce their sin nature. When we do not discipline our children and expect them to obey the first time they are asked, we are training them that they can wait — be independent of the covenantal family — appease their own sinful natures, and, when they feel like it, do what they please. Instead of living close to disobedience and still "get away with it," they need to be taught that their parents and their God require their immediate and absolute obedience. The Bible says the father who does not discipline his children, hates them. Society has pushed the feminist agenda of individualism to such a degree that it permeates the church at large. We are so feelings based that the concept of absolute truth and absolute obedience is foreign to our thinking. Some churches feel that teaching the Ten Commandments can harm the child's psyche! As the apostle Paul asked: How do we know what sin is without the law? We need to understand why we need a Savior from the sin we are born into. Subtle or not so subtle teachings of "You can do no wrong, my child," are harmful to the very soul of the child. So, if discipline is not taught, expected, and maintained, the parents are fighting an uphill battle that cannot be won for without the foundation, the house will not stand.

There is a wonderful video series on the topic of covenantal families by RC Sproul, Jr. This is a great starting place for us all. It is entitled: Bound for Glory and can be purchased at Ligonier Ministries or The Highlands Study Centerr.

Our Schedule

Why schedule? So that we actually accomplish things in an organized planned way. Not a "just gettin' by" attitude. Let's go again to our ultimate goal: To live all of life to the glory of God. This question has to come up regularly: Does this glorify God? If the answer is no, or I'm not sure, it needs to be looked into. Regarding homeschooling, if we remember our ultimate goal and keep it in front of our eyes, how would that change our activities?

Home Life

There are regular daily chores that need to be done in the home. Every walking family member can do something. Give a toddler a duster and have him get into the regular practice of family work (supervised by Mom or an older sibling). Regular chores must be part of the schedule or the house will be chaotic. Home life should take priority over outside activities. There should be planned meals together with the entire covenantal family...required. This should be a joyous time of daily unity discussing life as lead by the father.

Family Ministry

The family is the best missionary program there is. What mutual joy and growth there can be in a nursing home ministry, care of an elderly neighbor, or whatever the father of the family sets as the ministry for his family. This should be part of the schedule.

Health or Physical Fitness

Yes, this too is important. We should take care of our bodies given to us by God. But be careful. Sports, athletic clubs, and even recreational activities can be a real house divider. If Johnny is in baseball, Suzy is in ballet, Mom goes to the gym to workout, and Dad plays golf with the guys, this could eat up much of the time each week in addition to potentially putting individual family members in unprotected and ungodly situations. Wouldn't the better or best thing to do, be to have a regular family activity (as well as money-saving)? Taking family walks in the morning or evenings, a family tennis game on Saturday mornings, family football in the backyard, badminton, even a game of tag — these types of activities keep the family together and build memories as well as help condition the body. Invite another family or two over for a weekly game. Also, it is a good idea to schedule in little bits of exercise time for the children throughout the day and recess for them to run around. But it would be a good idea to eliminate anything that doesn't promote our ultimate purpose: To live all of life to the glory of God and our high purpose of being a covenantal family working together to the glory of God, which includes raising a godly offspring. (Here is something to remember: You can't train a child, if you aren't there to train him — if he spends most of his time with his coaches, teachers, peers, etc. those are his influencers.)

Outside Activities

We've already touched on this. But let's look into it a bit deeper. How does our goal of living all of life to the glory of God, and our high purpose of being a covenantal family working together to the glory of God help us to determine which outside activities we are involved in? Here are a few questions we can ask: Can we truly participate in this activity to the glory of God? Does it in any way take away from our responsibilities as a family? Does it promote covenantal family unity? Does it take away from covenantal family unity? Is it the best activity to choose for this time slot, considering our family goals? Is it worldly ?(friendship with the world is enmity to God) Does it cause undue stress? Is there a better way we could be spending our time? Why do I want to participate in this? Is that reason God honoring?

Family Altar

The family altar needs to be a daily part of the schedule, not something that is kicked in if there is time. Personally we find meals are the best time to do this. Remember the Shema? Pure Scripture is enough, we don't need devotional books, we have the Bible! Sing hymns and spiritual songs, pray and worship together our Sovereign Lord who is over all.

School Time

This does need scheduling! We need to be careful to balance exercise (recess), chores, and upkeep responsibilities and allow enough time for each topic we are studying. Don't exasperate the children by cramming too much into one day. But this should be a holistic view, not a segmented approach. Education is part of life and our purpose, not a separate thing.

I recommend daily recitation tapes. Tape the things you want your children to memorize. This is really important especially in the grammar stage of the Trivium (for the wee ones). I tape hymns, catechism questions, listing the states, verses, language alphabets, reformation songs I made up, listing the presidents, Latin songs, action songs, etc. on cassette tapes. The children listen to a different cassette tape together for each day of the week. They follow the instructions given on the tapes while doing penmanship writing practices. This is how our children memorized the book of James in the Bible.

Scheduling "school" can be tricky. First off, if there are too many outside activities (personally two weekly would be my limit), you are setting yourself up to fail. There will always be something that comes up, someone who suggests a jaunt to the park, a conversation that extends way beyond the time allotted, etc. This past semester we had choir and piano lessons which all the children participated in. We scheduled those outside activities in and they worked beautifully in the schedule. But if we would have added any more, I believe it would have cut into things that are of a higher priority to us. Consider piano and choir, for example. There are recitals, performances, and practice — all of which are time consuming. If we had added other things that took us away from the home, our regular studies would have been interrupted and the children would have been more likely to get behind on things, get out of regular study habits, and are learning (because we are teaching them in what we do!) that a busy, hectic life is what we do. Most likely they would do the same with their children. Is that glorifying to God? And where do you then have time to help others with a need?

All this does not mean that we never see anyone nor go anywhere. We believe the best way to accomplish our purposes is through family activities done together. This includes regular interactions with other like-minded families. Our children do not go to sleep overs — unless we are all going. They do not go to youth camps, youth groups, or other age segregating activities which break up the covenantal family unit and promote individualism. We plan our vacations as a family uniting time, usually going to a Christian camp. But we even have to pick and choose among these, as many have the parents go to their meetings and the children go to their X-treme adventures. Not things we are seeking to promote.

Here is one that you are free to disagree with, but we (the parents) do not go on "dates" or promote things for us that require us to regularly leave our blessings and responsibilities. I am not saying that going somewhere alone with your spouse is a sin — so please don't read that into what I am saying. We, for the most part, plan everything as a family unit. The reason is, that it works toward our goal and we are not living in a wing-it way, but purposefully to produce the fruit we are cultivating. If we can't wait to leave our children "for a break from them" what does that teach them? Where is that weekly get away in Scripture? What is the motivation behind it? I think we need to be careful in making Christianized pop-psychology our way of thinking and acting. I've heard conference shows on the radio say that if you don't go out with your spouse once a week, then you're going to have marital problems. Says who? Not Scripture. Where is our "truth" coming from? If you are in a wonderful covenantal community and a trusted godly family helps care for your children when there is need, I am in no way condemning that or attempting to make anyone feel guilt. My point is, let all we do be based on Scripture not someone's list of what we should or shouldn't do, and make sure that your "lists" are Biblical, not license to sin nor to be pharisaical.

One additional point, is that while it is important to, for the most part, plan things as a family — we do believe in all male or all female just don't take well to tea parties. The reason we believe in separating like this, is that in scripture we see the older men teaching the younger and the older women teaching the younger within the church. There has to be time for this to occur. While this can and does happen in the context of families getting together , there are times when that is not appropriate nor practical. It is important for the men to discuss and debate doctrine and for their sons to observe this. It is also important for the women to learn the things the Bible teaches, such as are mentioned in Proverbs 31. Where we would not age-segregate, we would sex segregate.....again, because it promotes our over arching purpose: To live all of life to the Glory of God. May almighty God be honored in our obedience to His ways according to His word.

Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
solus Christus! sola scriptura ! sola gratia ! sola fide ! soli Deo gloria !
Christ alone ! scripture alone ! grace alone ! faith alone ! to God alone be glory!