9 Ways Christian Parents Can Support Their Kids in School

Schools start their year in a couple of weeks here. Whether your kids go to public or private school or you homeschool, they will be much more successful and happier if they feel supported by you throughout the year.

You don’t want to do their homework for them (Trust me. Teachers can tell whether their kindergarten student or his architect dad completed the city model project!), but what are some ways you can truly support your children in their educational journey?

  1. Pray for your children, their friends, teachers, administrators, etc. Remind your kids daily that you are praying for them while they are in school. If you carpool, pray over them in the car as you drop them off (with driver’s eyes open of course!). When checking in about their day, remind them you have been praying about any specific need and ask how they believe God is answering that prayer (remember “wait” and “no” are answers from God, too).
  2. Listen. When your kids want to talk about their day or something in their lives, drop everything and fully engage. Use active listening techniques – like nodding and asking clarifying questions. If your kids don’t feel like they can talk to you, they will turn to whomever will listen to them – and that doesn’t always end well.
  3. Point out God. Sometimes you can do this by pointing out how you see God working in a situation. At other times, you may use God’s Words in scripture to remind them of things God wants them to know and how it applies to that real life incident.
  4. Get to know their friends. There is nothing more annoying to a young person than telling a story about friends and continually being interrupted by a parent asking them to explain who the various friends are. If you have trouble keeping it straight, make yourself a cheat sheet you can refer to if necessary. Don’t stop there though. Be the house where there is always food and fun. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or be the one who drives the group places. You will really get to know their friends as you spend time with them. Then you can help them navigate tricky relationships and be supportive of their friends as well.
  5. Respect their teachers. I know there are teachers your children may have who are less than ideal. It’s okay to advocate for your child, but you can do it respectfully. Go through the proper channels, in the proper order. Don’t email the principal before you have spoken to the teacher about the problem. Avoid yelling, cursing and name calling. As my grandmother used to say, “You catch more flies with homey than with vinegar.” More importantly, you are modeling Romans 13:1-7 for your children. (I know it doesn’t directly address school teachers and principals, but I think the underlying principle applies.)
  6. Make sure they get lots of sleep, exercise and healthy foods. Behavior issues, lack of stamina, poor moods, etc. can often be improved or eliminated with proper rest, exercise and diet. All kids through age 18 can benefit from 9-12 hours of sleep a day. In fact, teens need more sleep than children do in many cases. A quick run around the yard can actually make it easier for them to sit down and do their homework. (Just be sure to agree upon a set amount of time for outdoor play before they start.) Don’t forget that heavily processed foods will make them sluggish and can create immunity issues from a lack of vitamins and minerals.
  7. Have breakfast and dinner together as a family. One country has an amazingly high score on tests of both childhood happiness and kids having similar beliefs as their parents when they become adults. They credit it to mandatory family breakfasts and dinners. They won’t even invite others to join them for those meals. You don’t necessarily have to go that far, but studies have shown spending time eating meals as a family and talking about everything while eating improves outcomes for children and teens in multiple areas.
  8. Know their rights as Christians. Public school students have more rights to discuss and write about their faith than most teachers and administrators know. At the beginning of every school year, various groups like Focus on the Family publish an updated list of student rights that apply regardless of the school system. They also alert you to ones that may vary from school to school. Familiarize yourself with their rights and educate your children so they can respectfully advocate for themselves. If there have been issues in the past, take time to role play ways of handling similar situations.
  9. Celebrate victories! No, as an educator, I don’t feel there is much long term value in bribing children and teens to do well in school. I do believe that school can feel very overwhelming at times. Any victory – whether it’s good grades or getting some sort of award – should be celebrated. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. The point is to acknowledge the victory in a way the child can hear.

All of these tips require you to be engaged with your children and their school life. They don’t need you to micromanage them or swoop in like a mother hawk to attack and “fix” things. They do desperately need to feel your love and support. That’s what will make them truly resilient in school.

Raising Teachable (Christian) Kids

Ask any educator what makes a successful student and the answer could be summed up in one word – teachable. Have you ever tried to teach something to someone who had no intention of learning from you? It is one of the most frustrating experiences you will ever have. You can be the best, most successful educator that has ever lived, but you cannot force someone to learn what you are trying to teach them.

There are natural consequences built in when a student in school refuses to learn. If bad grades aren’t motivation enough, there may also be disciplinary consequences imposed by school leaders to emphasize the importance of being teachable. For children and teens who are being taught about God and the Bible in church classes, however, there don’t appear to be any immediate consequences. Grades aren’t given. Parents don’t seem to care enough to even do much when their children aren’t being taught anything of value, much less examine whether or not they are learning what is being taught.

Or you and your spouse may have found yourself frustrated when trying to teach your children about God at home. They may seem uninterested in learning what you are trying to teach them or are perhaps openly antagonistic about your attempts to teach. It may feel like a hopeless situation. Your kids can’t become faithful, productive Christians if they don’t know who God is and what He expects from them.

Whether or not your children are teachable has more to do with their character than what is being taught. Focusing on this list of character traits and behaviors will make it easier for you and others to teach your children about God (or about math for that matter.) Teachable children and teens are….

  1. Good listeners. If your children don’t listen carefully when they are being instructed, much of the information will be missed. There are lots of fun activities you can do to help improve your children’s listening skills.
  2. Humble. If your children think they are smarter than the person teaching them, they will rarely learn anything. Regularly reinforce that everyone has something to teach us – even if it is an example of how not to live our lives. They can only learn these sometimes critical lessons if they are humble.
  3. Curious. Learning is fueled by curiosity and master teachers know how to get students curious about a topic. If your kids are encouraged to be naturally curious, however, it won’t matter if their teacher knows how to spark their curiosity. They will already be curious.
  4. Tenderhearted. A tenderhearted child wants to please God. They want to learn how to please God. A child whose heart is hardening doesn’t care how God feels or about learning what He might want from them.
  5. Independent learners. Studies have shown young people need to be engaged spiritually an average of 14 hours a week in order to grow to be faithful, productive Christians as adults. They can’t possibly get it all from Bible classes or even you. They need to be independently engaged in spiritual disciplines like reading scripture, prayer, meditating on scripture, etc.
  6. ”Growth mindset.” For our purposes, this means that they are aware God wants them to continue to grow spiritually. They will never reach perfection, but they should always remain focused on growing as Christians.
  7. Life long learners. Connected to having a growth mindset, a life long learner realizes there is always something new to learn, understand or practice in the Bible – even if they have read it many times.
  8. Motivated to please God. The motivation to learn scripture like one would a subject in school will only help to a point. To really learn and use what God wants them to requires a strong motivation to please God – even when it is counter cultural, causes problems in their lives or goes against what they selfishly desire.

Are you raising teachable children? Working on this list of attributes can make it much more likely your children will learn and use what God wants them to know and live.

10 Ways Christian Parents Can Impact Public Schools

Christians at times spend more time worrying about what they aren’t allowed to do in the public arena than actually doing the things they are allowed to do to impact various aspects of culture. This can be particularly true in public schools where educators and administrators may appear to brush off parental concerns. The truth is that a subset of parents has always had a huge influence on teachers and staff at our public schools. Some are Christians and some aren’t. They all, however, take advantage of every opportunity they can to put them in a position to be heard when they feel it is important.

So what secret do these parents hold? They have learned that supporting the teachers and administration in ways those people value, builds relationships. Those relationships can provide other opportunities to question or influence various policy decisions.

Here are some great ways to support the teachers and staff at your children’s school(s).

  • Get involved in the PTA and other parent organizations like booster clubs. Yes, it means extra work and more meetings, but when a group of parents bands together, they can sometimes achieve more than an individual parent could. When our daughter was in elementary school, the county cut funding for their daily German classes. The parents worked as a group to raise money to fund the positions and the county relented.
  • Volunteer to be a “room parent”. The position is more than planning parties. Some teachers take advantage of supportive room parents and use them as a sounding board or offer them other opportunities to engage with students.
  • Volunteer for ketchup mom, carpool lane dad or any other volunteer positions at the school. Yes, the jobs are mundane and boring for the most part, but it shows you are willing to invest in the school. Plus you often get to see the various teachers and administrators doing their jobs when most parents aren’t there. You can learn a lot about people by watching how they interact with students.
  • Ask for prayer requests in your interactions with faculty and staff. Public prayer may not be allowed in schools, but nothing prevents you from telling a teacher that you are praying for him or her and asking if there are any specific requests. You would be surprised how many will gratefully tell you a request. Even those who don’t believe in God understand the sentiment behind your offer. If you do it consistently, you may be surprised to have teachers track you down to give you a prayer request. In our daughter’s elementary school, a group of moms met at a church in the community weekly to pray for our kids, their teachers and classmates, and the school as a whole.
  • Reading time. This is not available at every school, but many elementary schools have a parent come in to read a picture book to their child’s class. While you can’t get by with reading stories from the Bible in most schools, we were able to bring in books like Berenstain Bears that encourage godly behavior and attitudes.
  • Break-room treats. This is your chance to finally see the inside of a teachers’ lounge! Seriously though, finding excuses to drop by an occasional batch of cookies or some other treat lets everyone know you are thinking about them as people.
  • Volunteer to tutor. This is not ideal for everyone, but if you do have the gift of teaching, many teachers would love to have free tutors for struggling students. Be aware though that some teachers use tutoring for extra income, so don’t be offended if they reject your offer.
  • Participate in county or statewide curricula reviews. This varies from place to place, but some school systems allow parents to review potential new textbooks. It’s time consuming and tedious perhaps, but even if your feedback is ignored, you will be more aware of any problematic material before it is taught to your children as “truth”.
  • Volunteer for any school system committees that include parents. There may not be many, but if you do your volunteer job well, you will earn the respect of system wide employees who impact the bigger decisions for all of the schools in a district.
  • Run for school board. Okay, this one is for the truly passionate and those gifted in politics and diplomacy, but this is the one place where your voice will be heard – even if it isn’t heeded.

If you work outside of the home, you may think this article doesn’t apply to you. The truth is that many parents with full time jobs make the time to get involved. Ask teachers for projects you can do at home at night – like cutting out things they need or other flexible tasks. Many schools have meetings at night so more parents can attend. Schools also often have weekend work days to make improvements in their landscaping. (If not, why not volunteer to organize such a day?)

Yes, all of this takes a lot of extra time and effort. It is not about manipulating people or situations, but rather accurately and consistently reflecting God’s love to people who are often criticized by parents. Also remember, this can be a ministry in and of itself….. where you can point faculty, staff and students to God in perhaps subtle, but entirely legal ways.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About God While Reviewing Academic Skills

The verdict is in. Most children lost ground academically during the pandemic. In fact, some school systems have as few as 20% of their students reading on grade level by third grade. Even students who are on grade level academically can lose some ground over the summer. Reviewing and practicing the skills they will need to use in the coming school year doesn’t have to be dull and boring. In fact, you can even teach your kids the things God wants them to know while you are having fun practicing academic skills.

The Teach One Reach One Ministries website (www.teachonereachone.org) has tons of activities that combine Bible lessons and academic skill practice. Even better is the fact that the activities are not only hands-on, meaningful and memorable, but they are also fun. Although the activities were designed for faith based tutoring, they can easily be adapted for use with one or two children.

Activities are arranged by both Bible stories and category. With activities connected to over 200 Bible stories, your kids will most likely learn a lot of new Bible stories, too. You can find activities for Bible lessons (these specific activities are not tied to other academic skills), application lessons, service projects, ESL (the activities can be used with any second language), basic and advanced elementary language arts and math, science, health/hygiene and even sustenance and survival.

You will find the activity ideas under the “lesson plans” tab on our website. Choose children’s activity ideas and you will have access to hundreds of great ideas for your kids this summer! Best of all, they are free thanks to our generous donors! While you are there, you may also want to check out our free Living the Christian Life curriculum written to help older children and teens learn crucial Christian life skills.

Have fun with your kids this summer teaching them about God and reviewing important academic skills. It’s a great way to spend the summer!

Great Way to Prepare Your Children for Ministry

Because of the nature of the ministry at Teach One Reach One Ministries (the parent ministry of Parenting Like Hannah), it is easier for us to see needs not just in a specific congregation, but globally for the church as a whole. In spite of what you may have read, we believe the church will always have a need for people with certain skill sets and gifts to share their knowledge or talents with people in other locations. In addition, there are some people groups who are so unreached by Christianity that the harvest will at least temporarily need workers from other areas to help reap it. (Matthew 9:35-38)

The problem is that often the people most able to help don’t speak the local language(s). Even more challenging, people who are deaf worldwide have only a handful of people who can sign to them about God. In many countries, those who are deaf do not attend school and cannot read or write. It is estimated the deaf is one of the largest unreached (by Christianity) people groups worldwide. Complicating it even more, American Sign Language is just that – American. Often each country and sometimes each village can have a unique sign language which may bear no resemblance to the others.

You probably can guess where this post is headed, but there is one more area to cover. The Bible has yet to be translated into some of the more obscure languages which still have often thousands of speakers. Many times, Christians have to move to and live in these remote areas to learn the obscure language in hopes of aiding in the translation of the Bible. Some have even had to help develop a written language as the local language has only been spoken.

We need more young people to become truly fluent in multiple languages to serve as interpreters. Or to teach in a second or third language. Or to learn an obscure language and help translate the Bible. Or to translate written ministry resources into other languages.

Why do I say truly fluent? The American educational system makes us and our children think we are fluent in a language when most of us are not. When I have had native speakers grade translations by Americans, the average grade is a ”C” and most ministries need that to be an ”A” to be truly helpful. You and your children will have to go beyond the lessons most schools provide, doing extra work to become truly fluent. Consider mastering a more obscure spoken language or a sign language in addition to ASL. You may want to do a little research and find which languages would be most helpful. Surprisingly, Spanish is one of those languages, as it is almost impossible to find someone who will translate ministry resources on a volunteer basis. (The cost is prohibitive.)

Preparing your children for ministry may include giving them the opportunities to master additional languages. Not every child will be able to (or want to) do it, but for those who are, it will make them more equipped to help reap the spiritual harvest in areas that are underserved.