Protect Your Relationship with Your Children by Teaching Multiple Sides of Issues

Years ago, a friend’s teenage son declared: “When I grow up, I want to go to Saudi Arabia and openly preach the Gospel until I am martyred.”

Not exactly the life plans most moms have for their children.

What should we do when our kids tell us things that rock our world? I’ve written before about why Sonlight presents multiple views on various issues, such as different perspectives on historical events and the origins of the earth. If you’re curious at all, go ahead and read those to see what it looks like for Sonlight to teach multiple views on one issue. (For example, we present historical fiction about early American history from the perspectives of Spaniards, English colonists, and Native Americans.)

But I’ve been thinking of another reason for our approach to showing multiple sides of an issue. The very practice of looking at and discussing various points of view throughout your homeschool years helps protect your relationship with your kids.

You know your children are their own people. And sometimes that feels scary because you know you can’t control them! At other times it is truly awesome to watch the creative work of God unfold as your kids grow up.

As your children grow, they’re probably going be a little different than you expect. And they will probably disagree with you about some things. You pray and guide and do what you can to help them choose to follow Jesus. But you know that how they live their faith will still look a bit different than your life. Their fashion may be different than yours. Their financial choices may be different. Their paths of ministry may be different.

As one small example, my son Luke has a weekly movie night at his home. Anyone is welcome. They watch a movie and then discuss it. Luke uses it to demonstrate an open home (Brittany, his wife, says she never knows how many people will be at the dinner table) and to model the opportunity to talk about deep issues. I personally would never have started a ministry like that. To be honest, I don’t value movies the way Luke does. But I am grateful for Luke’s heart in this area. When I asked him how a book-loving mom like me could raise a son who loves movies, he replied, “Books and movies are both all about communication.” I had to admit that made sense.

In the face of these inevitable differences, big and small, we parents must decide: Do we want our children to be willing to talk to us about those differences? When they are teens and have some doubts about their faith, do we want them to feel like they can talk to us about that? Do we want to actually hear what they’re saying (even though our hearts might be thumping hard)? Do we want to be a helpful, trusted guide in their lives?

Since the answer is yes, we ought to start learning to listen and engage when our children are young. You can start looking at various viewpoints early on – to give both you and your children practice asking questions, listening and discussing. Your children learn that questions are OK, that not everyone believes what your family does, and that’s it’s OK to have convictions that run counter to our culture. You learn how to create a space where children can question and find answers.

Sonlight helps parents be intentional so they don’t fall into one of two extremes here:

  1. At one extreme, you could create a family culture where you can’t talk about anything. Any subject or idea outside what you believe to be true is shut down. Your children just hear your side of an issue over and over, without ever learning that the other side has intelligent (if unconvincing) reasons for their views as well. Your kids will grow up not knowing how to talk with someone who believes differently than them.

    But then sooner or later, at least by college-age, your children will meet intelligent, thoughtful, engaging, and kind people outside the boundaries you have drawn. They will meet Christians who believe God created the earth millions of years ago, or generous atheists who love their families and those around them. This can shake them to the core and make them feel like the whole foundation of what they thought true is suspect. They may feel duped and mislead. And then they may go and make their own way without your input at all.

  2. On the other extreme, you could choose not to provide your children any guidance. You could avoid teaching your children what you believe to be true, and instead let them chose anything from a young age. You could present all the world religions as equally valid options and let them choose what feels right to them. You could let them make all their own choices about values, morals and actions.

    Clearly, this approach does not work well. Children need to know that some things are right and some things are wrong. Some things are true and some things are false. They need to have a framework of truth before they can rightly evaluate things contrary to that framework.

So here’s a middle way that Sonlight helps you walk: You teach your children that your beliefs are true. You share your faith as the truth and you teach that you make your big life choices (like family, nutrition and finances) for a reason. But you also teach your children that other people believe other things and make other choices. And that those people are usually smart people trying to do good in the world.

You show your children that you are open to new ideas in non-essentials – for example, you may receive new information and let your beliefs change over time about what it means to eat in a way that is healthy and ethical. When you talk about history, you show curiosity for the experiences of all the people involved, not just those who were your cultural ancestors.

When it comes to essentials, like the core tenants of the Christian faith, you show that you can hear other viewpoints and that you respect those who share those viewpoints as people. You show that you are interested in what they believe and why. And then you demonstrate to your children that you still believe what you do.

Through this, you and your kids learn together how to have real conversations. You prepare for when your children say things that strike fear into your heart, whether it’s “I want to go to public school,” “I want to dye my hair blue,” “I want to listen to this new rock band,” or “I want to be martyred for Jesus.” When this happens, you want to have practice in actually listening to your children, so you know how to understand where they are coming from and what their motivations are. You show that you respect their intelligence and their desires. And yet you may still set boundaries about appropriate actions.

Sonlight helps you do all this. We think this is a wise way to raise children. If our children are to be true ambassadors for Christ in the world, they must be able to listen to the other side and respect people. If we are to be wise parents who serve as guides, we have to be able to listen to our children and respect them. We need to create an atmosphere where real conversation takes place.

Families who have used Sonlight for years know what I mean here. You can’t control your children, but you can take steps to keep the pathways of communication and influence open between you and them. Simply by choosing to homeschool and use Sonlight you are moving in that direction.

We are with you in this! God bless you in the noble task of raising and educating your children.

Blessings,

Sarita

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the young man who wanted to be a martyr for Jesus now serves overseas in a relatively unreached area (with a ministry approach that is much more sustainable than his original plans). I’m honored that he and his wife use Sonlight to teach their children!


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Five Ways God's Kingdom Is Different #5

He Can Handle the Truth

At one point this year, I was tired. You probably know that feeling, where you think, "I am tired to the point that I could throw up." And I had been dealing with some upsetting issues, and was sad about Syria, and, generally, just . . . depleted.

And I headed up to town for a birthday party, and put in a new CD. The first song was from Psalm 94. And I listened to the words and was stunned.

I grew up in a home where the rule was, "No put-downs." And I know Matthew 5:22, that "Anyone who says, 'You fool,' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

And yet here was what the Psalmist said.

Take heed, you senseless ones, you fools,
When will you understand, you fools,
Does the God who teaches man all things not know?
Does he not know?

Does the God who formed the ear not hear,
Does he who formed the eye not see,
Does the God who disciplines nations never punish?
Does he not judge?

By the time this song was done, I was sobbing. More than sobbing. Screaming, wailing . . . the sounds of deep emotion that, had I been at home, I would have kept inside, because no child needs to hear their mother melting down. But I was alone in the car, with God and Psalm 94.

I listened to this song five times. And in between my wailing for Syria, and broken relationships, and all the rest, I would think, "Is it okay to sing along? I'm calling people fools. And I guess it is foolish to rebel against God and think he doesn't see you. But that feels really awkward and bordering on wrong. On the other hand, if I'm singing Scripture, and part of the Psalter, how far off can I get?"

And it reminded me of something C.S. Lewis, in his meditations on the Psalms, says. Paraphrased: "The Ancients were far more willing to express their true feelings, unedited, than are we today."

Which is what I leave you with. If you are rejoicing: rejoice. And if you are angry, don't be angry about being angry (anyone else been there?!). The Psalmist says, "Why have you rejected us forever, O God?" (Psalm 74). That's a pretty gutsy thing to say. And that's in God's worship manual.

So worship God as you are. He can handle it.

Love

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

P.S. And that Psalm 94? You can hear a version here.

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Five Ways God's Kingdom Is Different #4

No, Really. It is Backwards

From childhood, I remember a nice diagram of how the Armor of God relates to the armor of a Roman soldier: helmet, breastplate, belt, shoes, sword, shield.

So I was surprised, reading Timothy Gombis's Drama of Ephesians years later, to find that Isaiah 59 actually speaks of God as a warrior: "He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head."

Gombis says, "Just as God waged warfare in the past to vindicate his name, to rescue his people or to judge his people, so now God wages warfare against the power through the church" (158).

And this warfare is not clashing in some kind of spiritual pitched battle.

Our warfare involves resisting the corrupting influences of the power. The same pressures that produce practices of exploitation, injustice and oppression in the world are at work on church communities. The church's warfare involves resisting such influences, transforming corrupted practices and replacing them with life-giving patterns of conduct that draw on and radiate the resurrection power of God. Our warfare, then, involves purposefully growing into communities that become more faithful corporate performances of Jesus on earth (159-160).

This is intense to think about. Gombis talks at length about the ways that we are lulled into not having the mind of Christ. Maybe that looks like consumerism, or the hunt for power. Those are obvious values of the world, and it can be hard to settle into service and loving your family, in the face of friends with perfect Facebook lives.

Which is all to say: the mind of Christ is not like the world's mind. Just resisting the way the world thinks, valuing things the world doesn't value (like children) . . . this is warfare the way Christ fought. Subversive, painful, sacrificial, unexpected.

When you love your children, you advance the Kingdom of God. It's exciting to think about.

Love

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

P.S. I had no thought, when I started this series, of a way to connect it with the Sonlight missions project. None. But as I wrote, the connection came to mind. If you haven't done so already, Sign up here!.

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Five Ways God's Kingdom Is Different #3

It Is All Backwards

Timothy Gombis, in his book The Drama of Ephesians, talks at length about how completely different the Kingdom of God is. Power demonstrated through weakness.

Throughout John's Gospel, Jesus has opportunities to assert himself and conduct his ministry by grabbing headlines and making impressive displays of power. Each time he says, "My hour has not yet come"; this is not the way that God is glorified in him. Nearer to the end of his ministry, however, Jesus begins to recognize that his hour has come. The time to glorify the Father has arrived. How does Jesus do that?"

As John says, "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."

And he washes their feet.

Don't read past that. Sit there for a minute.

He could have done anything at all, at this end of his life, and he serves in the most demeaning way possible.

There is no way you can prepare for a king that backwards.

But keep going. As Jesus finishes praying in Gethsemane, "he looked up to heaven and said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you. . . .'"

And it is easy for me to read that as, "Because I'm about to be resurrected and will eventually have every knee bow." I read that as a statement of final exaltation.

But Gombis would argue that my reading is faulty. Because we worship Jesus, who triumphed over principalities and powers through dying.

That's not the way the world triumphs.

When David fought Goliath, he killed Goliath. He didn't win by having Goliath kill him! It's ridiculous.

It is backwards.

  • So next time your baby decides to finger paint with the contents of his diaper, and you clean it up;
  • So next time your children, after playing happily all morning, have a sudden, sharp disagreement that ends in screams, tears, or maybe worse, and you go to help them find the way of peace;
  • So next time you hit your 4 o'clock slump, when it's a long time yet for the husband to come home and dinner is not yet begun, and you start it anyway;
  • So next time you teach your fidgeting children, because you love them and want good things for them;

Don't think that is nothing.

Because in the backwards kingdom of God, this is how God's power is manifested. Through the little things done in love.

There is a beautiful verse in Ephesians 3. Paul says that he has been given the grace to preach Christ, to tell the things that have been hidden, "that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places."

The picture I have is of faithful service in small things, and the rulers and authorities (however defined) are watching in awe.

The little things you do for Christ matter in the heavenlies.

It is backwards. But I am thankful for it.

Love

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

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Five Ways God's Kingdom Is Different #2

Poor in Spirit

I have been reflecting lately on the Beatitudes.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . ."

I have read that "blessed" is translated "happy," or, more properly, "in your happy place." As in, you are in your happy place when you are poor in spirit.

And in my journey, I have gone through different ideas of what that means, and different ways of considering how Jesus relates to that statement.

Because I look at Jesus and see the fullness of the godhead bodily, and it makes me uncomfortable to think of him as poor in any way except financially.

I don't think of Jesus as impoverished in spirit, as if his spirit was anemic. I find it hard to imagine how "poor in spirit" relates to Jesus.

But then I go to the next verse, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." And I can see that in Jesus. There is Jesus, after all, weeping over Jerusalem the week before the Crucifixion.

And I like that this verse doesn't say, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will get more mourning." No. The end result is comfort. But the mourning comes first.

Matthew Jacoby, in Deeper Places, a book about the Psalms, talks about how we, as humans, are good at mistaking reality, thinking that we have some control. And then we realize that we don't.

And our response to this is lament. He says "the pain of reality too easily wells up from underneath like volcanic lava. Ironically, when this happens, we are closer to reality, which is why Jesus declared that the 'poor in spirit' are blessed (Matt. 5:3). It is they who are closest to the truth."

Ah. That is a definition of "poor in spirit" that I love. That we are entering into the reality of the world, the brokenness of the world, and it grieves us. But that is the right response.

Of course, Jesus came for restoration. So that we might have life. So that he might leave us a Comforter.

But if you find yourself poor in spirit, if you are mourning and you aren't quite sure this is yet your happy place (in fact, you know that it isn't), may you find yourself turning more to Jesus, clinging more to him, and finding him worthy of trust.

And worthy of praise.

Love

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

P.S. While I personally have never been diagnosed with depression, I have dear friends who have walked that path. I have gone through a time of despair. And if that is you: take heart. This message is not to overwhelm you. This is a reminder that in the midst of our pain, in our darkest hours, Christ is near. He is the One who holds us, and our world, together.

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Five Ways God's Kingdom Is Different #1

The message I want you to hear is this: God's kingdom is different.

And if you've plunged into that difference, and you're sinking more than you're swimming . . . I'm sorry. I grieve with you, because I know how painful that is.

But keep going.

It Is Intense to Deal with The Fall

In 2009, we moved from a comfortable suburban life to unimproved land, and we got a bunch of animals.

I'm not a vegan, so on some level I knew that death happens so I could eat, but I was unprepared for how much death happened, especially when I didn't expect it.

I went from a safe environment, where I was mostly cut off from the effects of The Fall, to a place where I was immersed in both the incredible life that springs forth (plant a seed, get an edible treat!), and the reality of death that hangs over us at all times.

I had been able to ignore this in suburbia. But I came face to face with The Fall on the land. An almost constant reminder that life ends in death—and it stunned me.

It is possible that you find yourself in a similar place today. Not necessarily over physical death of a chicken from hawk predation (or, if so, you know you're in the minority).

But if you are at home with your children, you are dealing with the effects of The Fall every day. Broken relationships, broken responses. And broken relationships and broken responses are even more painful than the death of animals.

Especially if you have had children in school for some years, you are dealing with a whole new level of connection. And that is, in some ways, like my move to the land—exciting for the ways life springs forth, crushing for the new ways you face brokenness every day.

Comparatively, I can see that it can seem far, far easier to send children away to be taught by others. It involves less time, less trauma, less turmoil.

But . . . if your children are away, you are removed from both the trials and the joys.

And I know that some days, that might sound appealing (let someone else deal with this!).

But, really, you know that life is good. Connection is good. The pain, the pushing through, the relief, the joy, when something new is born.

And if it's surprisingly painful and raw . . . yes. That is life.

Real life!

Welcome.

More to come.

Love

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

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How to Incorporate Dad #5

Be thankful.

Homeschoolers are a very small percentage of school-aged children in America, somewhere between one and four percent.

That means that anyone who even considers homeschooling has a surprising strength of will to do something outside-the-box, to be different. That is a gift!

If your family homeschools, congratulations. Be thankful that you are able to do something so satisfying, that your husband, to whatever extent he supports you, does support you, that, as a team, you are seeking to raise the next generation.

I am thankful for you.

Love

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

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