Last week I kept my boys home from school. They had a mild cough and a sniffle, the kind of thing I’d usually make them soldier on with – but things are far from usual at the moment.
As a treat (for them and for me) I decided it was time for one of my long-awaited parenting milestones: showing them my favourite movies including the Indiana Jones movies (only the good ones – Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade), as well as The Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers (the extended cuts, no less!).
As nice as it has been to see their excitement, and to watch them dress up as Indy and follow self-made treasure maps around the house, or to marvel at my youngest son’s inexplicable obsession with Gollum, I expect that even the seemingly-unending stream of Netflix content will soon run out of entertainment for my boys. More than that, there are lots of other, more fruitful ways they can be spending their time in the coming weeks and months.
You don’t have to dig too deeply into Google or scour too many parents’ groups on Facebook to see that there are a lot of people worried about how they’re going to fill the long days and weeks when the schools are (it seems, inevitably) closed. So desperate are people for guidance that one parent’s “COVID-19 Daily Schedule” for her children went viral, even being shared by the American Neuropsychology & Education Services. This same group posted other tips for parents including “use screens wisely” (whoops, already failed there!) “move your body” and “get outside for fresh air”.
As Christians, there is a lot we can take from these lists; providing routine in uncertain times will without a doubt prove helpful for our children’s physical, emotional and educational wellbeing. But one dimension is missing: how can we care for our children’s spiritual wellbeing in a time like this? If we were to make a schedule to fill our days, what are some ways we can be helping our children dwell in God’s word?
One caveat: I’m not the font of all wisdom on this. Never in my life would I have foreseen myself being a home-school mum. I’m muddling through this, like I guess you are too. So please see this as one parent’s attempt, not one expert’s advice. Nevertheless I have a few suggestions of things I’ve tried, I’d love to hear yours as well.
1 – Bible Reading.
I’ve been trying to encourage my 8-year-old to read more. It’s an ongoing battle, and one I wasn’t equipped for as somehow my parents raised me to be a bookworm who would gleefully spend hours in her bedroom reading – both as a child and now. But my son is different. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve had to resort to bribery – promising him 50c every time he reads at least two chapters in a book in one sitting.
While I’ve been worried about my son’s reading habits, I haven’t had the same concern for his Bible reading habits. This is partially because my husband and I have read the Bible to him every night before bed since he was 3 months old. But now’s the time where I want him to develop habits for life. So, for 10 minutes after breakfast, I’m going to start encouraging him to sit and read some of the gospel of Mark.
For my younger son who can’t yet read, this is a little bit harder and I’m going to have to be more creative. The Bible for Kids’ app is a helpful one as it tells the story, has interactive images that animate when he touches them, and has a little activity at the end. Of course, the 8-year-old gets jealous that his brother gets to use a fun app while he’s reading so I let him have a turn as well as a reward after he’s finished his “grown-up Bible” passage.
2 – Christian music.
One way I’ve been trying to keep my boys active is to have dance parties in the lounge room. They’re huge fans of the game Just Dance – so much so that I now know the lyrics of “What does the Fox Say?” and “Old Town Road” by heart. As an Aussie Christian family, we also love Colin Buchanan’s music and DVDs. So, in addition to Just Dance, we’re going to try to have a “Colin Dance Party” (where we dance to Colin’s music, not where we try to dance like Colin dances!). If you don’t own any of Colin’s DVDs, his songs are available via digital platforms, I’d suggest starting with upbeat ones like “10, 9, 8 God is great” and “Jesus Rocks the World” although “God Rock” is another favourite with my boys.
3 – Good quality Christian Video Resources.
As an SRE teacher and now advisor, I’ve had the privilege of watching the huge growth in the last few years in the number and quality of online resources we can use to communicate God’s word. (Of course, any resources I use in class have to be passed through the SRE multimedia approval process!) .
One series that I’ve loved using first in SRE and now with my sons is “What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver”. Phil Vischer, half of the creative team behind VeggieTales, has ditched the C-G animated tomatoes and cucumbers and instead chosen puppets as his medium for exploring the whole story of the Bible – from Genesis to Revelation – in 26 half-hour episodes. Cute, funny but also theologically deep (unlike Phil’s first project), I highly recommend it. If you want to give it a try some clips are available via their official YouTube channel, but you can also buy full episodes in digital download formats.
By all means make your lists and plan your routines, just make sure you are also building spiritual habits that will help your children not only at this time, but for the rest of their lives.