Assessing Your Child’s Spiritual Growth

Isn’t it a little odd that there are no report cards for parenting?! It might be nice to know you were doing a good job or where you need to improve your Christian parenting skills. Since there aren’t report cards, we have to guess what is working and what isn’t. It’s tricky, because some things that appear to be working in the short term end up being disastrous over time. Other things that don’t seem to make an impact suddenly appear to have worked really well when your child becomes a young adult.

Assessing the spiritual growth of your child is also difficult because his or heart is more indicative of spiritual health than their actions may be. So how do you know what is working and what isn’t? How do you know if your child is growing spiritually, stagnating or moving away from God?

There is no perfect assessment, but there are some things you can observe that will give you some important clues.

  • Your child displays godly character traits more consistently and without constant reminders. Is your child becoming more truthful, kind, patient, etc.? Are you having to give fewer reminders and corrections for your child to act more godly? Does their behavior appear sincere or is it a manipulation technique?
  • Does your child read the Bible independently? Like any habit, young children may need your help establishing good Bible reading habits. After a time though, they should be seeking time in scripture without reminders from you.
  • Does your child have an independent prayer life? This one is tricky, because we often pray silently when praying independently. If a child is praying, though, he or she may mention praying about something, ask you to pray also, or quickly respond yes when asked if they are praying about something concerning them.
  • Does your child’s decision making reflect a Christian worldview? Do they accept everything they are taught at school without thinking about whether or not it aligns with scripture? When faced with a choice does he or she consider what God may want him or her to do or is the choice based on personal feelings and preferences? A Christian worldview means God’s commands and principles are considered before accepting a new belief as true or when making decisions.
  • Does your child display a servant heart? Does your child offer to help others without being asked? Does he or she help even when there is no benefit for him or her? Does your child help without complaining or whining?
  • Is your child exhibiting a spirit of wanting to obey and please God? Or does your child want to argue against God’s commands or find loopholes to excuse disobedience?
  • Is your child trying to obey the two greatest commands? Loving God with all of his or her heart, mind and soul and neighbors as themselves is not always easy, but does your child show an awareness of the commands and try to obey them, even when it isn’t easy?
  • Does your child exhibit an increased knowledge and understanding of scripture? Over time your child should display an increased knowledge and understanding of scripture.
  • Has your child asked to be baptized and commit his or her life to God? Some young people ask to be baptized for less noble reasons – like getting extra attention. A child who is growing spiritually will want to get baptized for the ”right reasons”.
  • Is your child making attempts to share his or her faith with others? This can include casual conversations, inviting people to church, etc.
  • Does your child have relationships with people who help him or her grow spiritually? These can be mentors, teachers and/or peers.

Remember, spiritual growth, just like physical growth can be uneven and vary from child to child. What you want to see is that your child is showing obvious signs of spiritual growth. If not, making adjustments in your parenting quickly can keep your child from failing to thrive spiritually.

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids About Inner Beauty

You know that God only cares about the inner beauty of your children, but how can you help them understand and embrace that truth when they live in a culture obsessed with outer beauty? There’s a fun activity that doubles as a family devotional you can do with your kids to help.

Before the devotional, you may want to go to your local library and check out books with photos and drawings of fashion trends from various times periods and cultures. Or you can bookmark websites with the same information (be sure to do this in advance to avoid accidentally showing your kids inappropriate content).

Call your kids together and have fun looking at the various fashions. Note the changes over the years or between cultures Are there some fashions that return in a later time period or a different culture? (Note: Including male fashion and unusual fashion trends can engage kids not as interested in fashion or history.)

After having some fun, explain to your kids that King David had a son who was obsessed with his own good looks. He was particularly proud of his magnificent head of hair. (You may want to include hairstyles in your fashion exploration.) Read or tell them the stories found in 2 Samuel 13-19. Afterwards, ask them why God didn’t support the idea of Absalom as King.

Point out that while Absalom may have been very handsome on the outside, he was not so handsome on the inside. Ask your kids to list the characteristics in Absalom that would have made him ”ugly” to God. Can they add other character traits to the list that perhaps weren’t part of Absalom’s character, but would also be ”ugly” to God? Feel free to add any they may forget.

Then have your kids list character traits that God would consider beautiful. Give them each a large sheet of white paper. Have them draw a self portrait. As they draw their physical portrait, encourage them to write words (you can write them for pre-writers) describing their character in and around their portrait. Family members may want to suggest additional words.

After the portraits are completed, discuss each child’s privately with him or her. Which character traits make them beautiful to God? Which character traits do they need to improve or which negative character traits do they need to eliminate to be more beautiful to God? You may choose to revisit these self portraits from time to time to encourage your kids to focus their energies on improving their inner beauty.

Free Christian Homeschooling Resources

As someone who homeschooled our child from 5th through 12th grade I understand the many reasons and benefits of homeschooling. I also remember how many resources are available for homeschoolers now and how quickly the expenses can add up. Which is why as we developed Teach One Reach One Ministries, we kept our homeschooling friends in mind. We have tons of free, quality resources developed by trained educators that you can use in your homeschool as well as ministries serving children and teens.

Here are some of the free resources you can find on our website.

  • Bible lessons. You will find over 200 free Bible lessons on our website. They include links to the scriptures, learning objectives, interesting facts and activity ideas. They are designed to be worked in through out the school day for elementary children.
  • Bible lesson activity ideas. While designed for classes of children, most activities are easily adapted for one or two children. The activities help children explore details of the story or learn about its application principles. The activities are hands on, experiential, meaningful ones to help engage your kids in learning about God.
  • Service project ideas with meaningful ties to Bible stories. Service learning is great for helping your kids practice things they are learning while serving others and sharing their faith. Our website has 149 service project ideas.
  • Living the Christian Life Christian life skills lessons. Developed for teens, these lessons can also be adapted for older children. Each includes a Bible lesson, skills activity and application challenge. They will help you explore Christian life skills with your children like conflict resolution, handling money and much more.
  • Elementary academic skills activities tied to Bible stories . Originally developed for faith based tutoring, these activities can help your kids practice elementary level language arts, math, science and health and hygiene skills in the context of a Bible story. We hope to add a scope and sequence soon to make it easier for you to find specific skill sets. (Currently, the are grouped by category and Bible story.)
  • Activities for learning a new language tied to Bible stories. Originally designed to be used in ESL classes, these engaging activities have meaningful ties to Bible stories and the words for any language could be substituted for English.
  • Sustenance and survival activities with ties to Bible stories. Originally created to help children growing up in places without adequate resources or for scout troops, these activities can be used to teach your kids skills that aren’t usually taught to young people, but could prove helpful in ministry or real life emergencies. Skills include things like finding fresh water, various types of gardening, navigating by stars, predicting weather without instruments and more.
  • Educational best practices books. Concerned because you don’t have a degree in education? These free ebooks were designed for ministry purposes, but parents and homeschoolers will find lots of helpful information in Effective Children’s Ministry and Effective Teen Ministry.
  • Baptism study. Want to study baptism with your child, but not sure where to begin? This free ebook gives you the framework you need to feel confident.
  • Christian parenting resources. Our Christian parenting blog and printable parenting sheets have the tips, ideas and encouragement you need.
  • Family devotionals. Search our parenting blog for lots of free family devotional ideas.

All of our resources are free, thanks to the generous donations of our supporters. Please feel free to share this post and links with other homeschoolers. May God bless you as you educate your children.

15 Signs Your Child Really Needs to Talk

Some kids seem to be born to talk. Without much prompting, they tell you every detail about their day, what they are thinking and feeling and probably dozens of other details about their world as well as their hearts and minds.

Other kids seem to struggle to give you a complete sentence. Two sentences strung together begins to feel like a deep conversation. Some of the dynamic is personality, some of it is their relationship with you and there may be other factors involved as well.

There may be times in your child’s life when he or she needs to talk to a Christian adult. Your child needs that conversation to express emotions, process what is happening and have help figuring out how God wants them to handle the situation. Unfortunately, because the circumstances are so confusing, emotional or traumatic, even the most talkative child can become silent.

On the other hand, the silence may stem from being tired, having a bad (normal) day or any of a dozen other reasons your child may need a little space and time without conversation – to process, think, dream, pray, reflect on scripture or focus on school work. So how do you know when your child needs encouragement to talk to you or another trusted Christian adult because he or she needs the comfort and guidance that conversation could provide?

  • Your child loses interest in favorite activities, spending time with friends, etc. Give your child a day or two for hormone levels to shift or some other relatively benign cause for ennui to pass. If it lasts for more than a week or two, something more serious may be going on.
  • Grades begin to fall – especially in multiple subjects. Struggling in one class may stem from normal academic issues. If a child who normally gets A’s and B’s starts getting C’s and D’s in multiple subjects, something more serious is happening. Don’t wait for the official grades on report cards. As soon as test and paper grades start falling, you need to find out what is happening.
  • Radical changes in friend group not resulting from a change in school or activities – particularly if the new friend group is known to engage in risky behaviors like drinking, smoking, drugs, petty crime, etc. Kids’ friend groups adjust when they change schools, move to the next level school or begin a new activity. Troubles in friend groups are normal, but usually resolve themselves quickly. If your child seems to drop a healthy friend group for a riskier one for no obvious reason, something has happened that needs to be addressed.
  • Headaches. These can be from slumping over a desk for too many hours or holding tension in the body while studying for a difficult test. There can also be medical causes for frequent headaches. If the headaches seem to come from stress (according to your child’s doctor), conversations can help them name and manage those stressors.
  • Stomaches. A more common stress reaction in kids, particularly if they seem to come and go under similar circumstances…like always having a stomach ache right before school or a specific activity.
  • Insomnia or sleeping much more than normal. Growth spurts can trigger a day or two of extreme sleepiness as can regular hormonal swings in some young women. Prolonged insomnia or extreme sleepiness needs to be investigated for possible medical causes or to discover if it results from stress, depression or trauma.
  • Nightmares. Everyone has nightmares. Unrelenting nightmares or terrors can result from stress or trauma Conversations can help your child identify the trigger and learn how to manage their stressors better during their waking hours
  • New bedwetting issues. If a child suddenly begins wetting the bed multiple nights in a row, something is going on. In older children, a physical cause is rare and it is more likely from extreme stress or even trauma.
  • Radical changes in eating habits. This can range from having no appetite to suddenly wanting a comfort food every day or over eating. The root cause can be something physical, like a growth spurt, but don’t let it continue for more than a week or so without consulting a doctor. Eating changes can morph into eating disorders over time. Catching them early is key for easier intervention.
  • Increased crying, angry outbursts, etc. With raging hormones, this one can be tough to discern. Even if the root cause turns out to be hormones, your kids need to talk about how to exercise self control or engage in activities to help them regulate their emotions in healthy ways when they can feel their hormones fluctuating.
  • Overreacting. This too, can result from hormones, but your kids also need to learn how to pause and self regulate before responding to negative incidents.
  • Regressing to comforting behaviors of a younger child. There are times when all of us might benefit from hugging a stuffed animal. If your child suddenly goes back to using a night light, thumb sucking, etc. he or she probably has something that needs to be talked about with an adult.
  • Unusual anxiety especially with no obvious cause. An important test, try out for an activity or first date can send anxiety levels soaring temporarily. If your child suddenly seems extremely anxious for multiple days with no obvious cause, he or she needs to talk with someone.
  • Unusual clinginess – especially with no obvious cause. Parents of college kids can tell you that even the kid most excited to go to college can become a little clingy when mom and dad are leaving campus the first few times. If your child suddenly becomes unusually clingy (after the normal stage for this in early childhood) – especially in an environment where they have normally confidently left your side, you need to try and help your child figure out the source of their new anxiety.
  • Unable to concentrate at normal levels. Some kids struggle to concentrate normally. If a child who normally concentrates well, suddenly can’t seem to concentrate at all, you need to help them figure out what is making them anxious.
  • Sudden change in faith – especially a new extreme anger towards God with no obvious cause. Children who suddenly go from praying, enjoying Bible classes and loving God to becoming extremely angry with God have had something trigger that radical change. They need to talk about it and resolve the issues before it becomes a permanent stumbling block to faith.

You may have noticed, I suggested your child talk with a trusted Christian adult when possible. In an an ideal world, your child would willing confide in you. Sometimes, however, their fear of your possible negative reaction can make them afraid to tell you the entire truth. Even if their fears are unjustified, I would rather have them talk to a trusted Christian friend, Bible class teacher, minister or Christian counselor than talk to no one at all. Hopefully, that trusted Christian adult can also create a bridge to help your child include you in the conversation, too.

As hard as it may be, try to remember your child needs help. It’s better to get it from a trusted Christian adult than a peer at school or a source who will point them away from what God wants. Give your child some options of people to whom they can talk. Dragging him or her in front of a group of elders, ministers or your best friend at church with whom there is little relationship can do more harm than good. Helping your child talk to you or another trusted Christian adult can give your child the support he or she desperately needs.

Including God in Virtual Learning Days

Gone are the days when snow, water outages or pandemics meant children stayed home with no academic responsibilities. Virtual learning means school continues – no matter what. There are several hidden gifts in those virtual days, however. Cutting out travel time and extra curricular activities means your kids have extra free time in their days. Why not claim some of that for God?

There are lots of great ways to add activities that encourage your kids to spend time with God and learn more about Him. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Take a snow stroll. The Bible tells us God’s creation points us to Him. Snow changes how the world looks, sounds and even smells. Take your kids for a stroll, asking them to point out the things that are different from a regular non-snow day. Older kids may enjoy taking photos that show the beauty of God’s blessing of snow. Over a cup of hot cocoa after your walk, ask your kids why they think the things they saw could point people to God.
  • Practice academic skills with a biblical framework. Our website has tons of activity ideas tied to Bible stories and academic skills like language arts, math, second languages, science, health and even survival skills. Look around for some skills your kids need to practice. Have fun teaching them the connected Bible story and doing the activity. (http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/)
  • Have a family devotional. What better time to start that family devotional habit? Our website can be searched for family devotional ideas or use some of the activity ideas on our ministry website.
  • Serve one of your neighbors. Make some soup or homemade bread for a neighbor. Offer to shovel their sidewalk. Find ways for your family to serve others around you with some of your extra time.
  • Teach your kids a Christian life skill. Our free teen curriculum can be adapted for older children, too. In addition to the Bible lesson, you will find activities teaching your kids important Christian life skills like godly conflict resolution. They also give your kids guided practice, so they will know how to do what God wants them to do.
  • Encourage your kids to discover, develop and/or use the talents God gave them to serve Him. Your kids probably have things they have wanted to try, but never seem to have the time to do. Encourage them to take some time to try or read about a possible new talent. Or let them work on developing a talent they’ve already discovered or help them find a way to serve someone using one of their talents.

The next time your kids have a virtual learning day, use some of that redeemed time to teach them something God wants them to know or encourage them to use some of that time spending time with God and serving Him. It’s a great way to help your kids build a strong faith foundation and reach their godly potential.