Fall 2013–the best-laid plans…

Well, after all my planning, I ended up scrambling a whole lot of things over the summer!

Still on Tapestry.  Still on Singapore Math.  But we went to a curriculum fair and I have come to realize a few more things, and… pretty much everything else has not quite ended up as I planned! But now that we are working through our first week, it’s all official—if still subject to change!


The first thing is, I switched to A Beka phonics.  Now, I really don’t like A Beka.  I don’t like what I have read about their business practices, I don’t like their prices, and I don’t like their theology or their rampant civicism.  But…  While feeling like I still don’t know anything and wishing that I had majored in early childhood education instead of secondary education, I have nonetheless come to the conclusion that I have been going about teaching reading all the wrong way.  I think I have been too laid-back and random.  E got a hold of math really well, with very little effort on my part, and I thought reading would be the same way, that learning was just a natural process that needed to be facilitated.  But it didn’t work.  So, while she knows a lot more than the beginning of A Beka Letters and Sounds K5, we are starting in the beginning, doing all the exercises, all the games, all the chalkboard stuff, everything—and we’re taking R along for the ride.  They’re doing the exact same thing.  It will be a lot of review for E, and a real challenge for R, but they really enjoy doing it together and I am hoping it will serve as a good foundation for R, while cementing a lot of concepts that E didn’t get so well (particularly blending), while building her confidence and mine.  A Beka is supposedly about a grade ahead of most other curricula, so while it kills me that my otherwise-first-grader is doing a K5 curriculum, I’m trying to be very chill about it and just ignore the “K5” on the cover. :)  And for R, I’m not really expecting her to master the concepts, just to do her best, and then next year we would either move on to something only incrementally more difficult for mastery, or, if she does better than I expect her to, she could keep on with E.  They don’t seem to mind doing the same thing.  I even have L in on the fun and am hoping he at least picks up his letters, if not his letter sounds, from the exercises. (For him, I am supplementing with extra preschool-oriented worksheets centered around the same letters that the girls are working on.)

I will say that the experience has given me a great determination to be more purposeful in earlier schooling, and I am pursing a more systematic preschool curriculum for L so that he might have a better foundation than E did when he gets to this point.  That’s my hope, anyway!

I also changed science.  We went to a homeschool fair and there was an Apologia Science display, and I looked at it and really liked it.  It is designed such that the whole family studies science together, with different levels of activities and notebooking for the different grades.  I really like doing school together.  It also, instead of doing every science subject in every grade year after year, picks one major area (botany, animal science, anatomy, astronomy, etc.) and spends a whole year going into great depth on it.  That seems a lot more conducive to learning.  Then, after I’d decided on it, and went through to compile my supplies lists and pick our experiments and projects for the year, I was even more impressed because it’s full of things that are really hands-on but also use affordable/available supplies and are easily adapted to a wide age range.  The only thing I really don’t like about it is the textbook is very word-heavy and has few pictures (and some is downright clipart-looking) and it isn’t bound very well.  The text itself is fine, but the formatting just is not very appealing, and it’s hard for small children to be engaged with so many lines of unbroken text.  All three children do science together with very different expectations of their participation.

I’ve also added subjects.  We are doing First Language Lessons for grammar, which are really short auditory lessons that all three children participate in, which fits well with our school day, A Reason for Handwriting (A & K) for handwriting (I don’t like A Beka’s), Draw Write Now for an art supplement, and Polished Cornerstones for a “character”/home economics supplement.  I should add that none of these is terribly time-intensive, nor do I try to do them all every day (except for handwriting).  But it is good to have them on my weekly schedule and work them in here and there. Smile


Homeschool Day Book — Review

I have been hunting for the perfect homeschool planner for months.  And finally ended up with an Excel spreadsheet and a whole bunch of paper printouts.  Still not thrilled with that solution.

But when I read about a record keeper that let you put things in after finishing them, it seemed like it had the potential to be a good fit for us: I could keep my spreadsheet for planning ahead, but then keep track of what we actually did in a neat little program.

So… how did it work?  We just started our school year so I decided to give it a whirl.

One area that Homeschool Day Book really shines is in simplicity.  It took me less than ten minutes to put in our three students and all our subjects.  Similarly, it has been taking very little time for me to enter what we did – less than five minutes. If I’d put the program on a laptop that I kept in the schoolroom (this would have been smart) then it really would be effortless.  I love how easy it is to tick which subject each lesson falls into (this would make field trips, for instance, really easy to categorize), and that each lesson can include any combination of students.  You can also record how long you spent on each activity, and add a “description” to explain what you actually did.  This could be really useful for those who aren’t using textbooks or who need detailed notes to compile for the state.  So far that is not me, however, so I am just putting the page/lesson numbers in the title and leaving the description blank.  It works well.

Then there are the reports:


And this, to me, is the weakness of Homeschool Day Book: there just aren’t quite enough options on the reports. And I would love to be able to export all my data to CSV or some such readable format so that I’m not locked into the program’s report options.  For me, the major thing the reports are lacking is the subject name.  You can print subjects when you do the “Time Spent Per Subject/Date” reports, but the “Entries” report (seen above) doesn’t include the subject names at all… leading one to wonder what on earth “Cooked Cornbread” was supposed to fall into (it was actually part of our kindergarten phonics exercise).  This would be a handy option.  The reports are neatly formatted and sensibly divided by date, subject, or child, so this is kind of a minor quibble, but honestly, the inability to export the data wholesale would make me really question the wisdom of entering my information in every day, day after day, and then be limited to these few report options that the program provides.  I can think of lots of ways I might want to format the data, but will never be able to.  That said, the program is so simple and fast to use, and light to run, that I might use it anyway.  They’ve really put together something that excels in simplicity, and that’s a good thing.  “Reports” is just a little too simple.

The last point is the price: I downloaded the trial to do a review, and popped over to check out the price, and it’s $39!  That’s a lot, for something that you could do with just a spreadsheet (admittedly a sloppy and hard-to-print spreadsheet, but still).  If it was half that, I would say, that’s fair, and I would consider paying it myself for the convenience and simplicity of the thing.  I would also think about paying that much if it was web-based so I could access it across computers, because I bounce from one computer to another all day, and having to go upstairs to enter information on “my” computer is a small hassle.  If it was $29 instead, I would think it was pricey but would still consider it.  I understand that in some ways, $39 is not so much since it is a permanent license, and it is a useful, niche program, and if I used it every year for twelve grades, then $39 would be an absolute steal.

To conclude… on the one hand, I do think I’d be more likely to use this than any other planning software I’ve tried.  It is so easy and requires so little time.  It’s easy to understand, easy to get started, and easy to be up and running in less than a half hour.  It’s practical.  On the other hand, the fact that I’m limited to the predefined (and few) “reports” to get my data back out again… I’m not so keen on that. And honestly, that is what is making me waver about whether or not I’m going to continue using it.  My advice would be: wait until you start school, then check out the trial, take a good look at the reports, and if you’re happy with what they generate, then this could be a great solution. Smile

Disclaimer: I was offered a free license for the software in exchange for writing a review. It did not impact my opinion.

Fall homeschool planning.


So, next fall we will, Lord willing, begin our first foray into 1) official, state-registered homeschooling, and 2) first grade.  And so I am attempting to make sure that we are covering all our bases, and covering them well!  Because I am expecting to be greatly pregnant by the time we begin, and have a newborn halfway through the year, I am trying to do as much planning ahead as I possibly can.  I have my lesson plans broken down to the weekly level for the entire year, and am beginning to work through which specific activities we’ll do.  I am planning for a long winter break from Thanksgiving through New Years, because I’m sure otherwise school will fall apart then anyway until we settle into the routine of a new baby.  That long break also means that we are beginning in August, and running through the end of May.  When our year isn’t planning to be interrupted by a newborn, I would ideally like to plan 9-week terms separated by substantial multi-week breaks and run year-round.  But this year, I think we need one big fat break in the middle instead.

Our core curriculum, although it is treated as more of “dessert” at the early stages, is Tapestry of Grace.  This is a classical curriculum, in four yearly cores, which repeat three times each throughout the schooling experience, covering a multitude of subjects from history, social studies, English, composition, philosophy, government, rhetoric, and geography.  The first year, which we are doing at lower grammar level, is the Ancient World.  The thing I am most excited about is that all students, regardless of age, are centered around the same basic part of history every week, while the activities, expectations, and reading and writing assignments are tailored to each student’s individual level. So, for instance, one week the lower grammar child may be learning about the geography of Egypt and the importance of the Nile to the local economy, building pyramids and making Egyptian headdresses, while the rhetoric-level teenager may be writing a 10-page essay analyzing the intricacies of the ancient Egyptian religion and its influence on later philosophy.  I think this is a great opportunity for larger families to maintain a lot of cohesion while also meeting each child’s academic needs, and I am excited to see how it plays out as the years go on!  I am intending to repeat this year almost exactly in four years with E2, rather than E1, in the student role (while E1 would have moved on to an upper grammar approach to the material), so in addition to trying to make meticulous plans beforehand, I am going to try to keep detailed notes and lists as we go along.  I will say, the books seem a little ambitious with only a first-grader and a kindergartener; I am expecting it to go a little haphazardly, but then of course the next time around we will use the same books except then we will have a 2nd grader and 3rd grader as well, Lord willing, because by the time the cycle repeats, even if E1 is moved on to upper grammar, the younger ones will still all be lower grammar.  So I’m definitely looking at this year as a low-stress test drive of the material and the course structure.

For science, I honestly didn’t agonize over the decision very much.  I’ve looked at many lower-grade science curricula, and they all seem incredibly similar.  This one is MacMillian/McGraw-Hill, 2nd grade (because we’ve already been doing “first grade” for quite some time—early science is easy and our kids love science!), and I picked it because it was incredibly affordable (widely available used), and has a good website with lots of supplementary videos, and is simply structured with review questions and suggested experiments all right within the text.  I am planning to keep our kids “together” for science in at least pairs, which seems doable to me because the high school sciences don’t necessarily have to go in order, so we can simply reshuffle partners around as necessary to make sure everyone gets the right curriculum at the right grade level.

For math, we are continuing into Singapore Primary Mathematics 1A and 1B for E1, and Singapore Essential Math Kindergarten A and B for R.  I like Singapore, and so do the kids!  From what I’ve read, it is pretty well leveled with Saxon, so I am intending at this point to switch to Saxon once we are out of early elementary… or not.

For phonics/reading, I have not been able to “plan” it very well, because it has seemed like more of a brain development issue than a textbook/teachable issue.  With that said, I have been pretty pleased with EPS Primary Phonics, and we worked through the K book last year and are currently working through the 1 book, so I am hoping to begin the 2 book by fall and begin, at some point (probably earlier than fall), the K book with R.  We also use lots of supplementary materials, games, and computer programs.  Once such which was recently recommended is Phonics Pathways, which I’m going to try to draw all the kids into.

Lastly, preschool… L will be our youngest-yet “preschooler,” and my plan so that I can actually teach the girls is to assemble a number of “busy boxes” for him so that when I need him distracted, he can sit at the table and work on his schooltime-only special exciting activity/toy.  I am expecting that with both Tapestry and science, he can sit with us as we read together and even do his own semblance of many of the activities—not necessarily to absorb any of the learning, but at least for distraction purposes.  So it will be more when we are doing the “seatwork” of math and reading that I will be trying to distract him with his busy boxes, and hopefully at some point in the year he can begin his own workbooks.  We have had good experiences with the Rod & Staff Preschool Workbooks, which are by far the most well-suited to very young children that I have ever come across.

Mothering, Studying God, Toddlers

Tips for Finding Time in the Word

There’s been a quote by D.A. Carson making the rounds on the blogosophere, most recently here (emphasis not mine):

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once spoke with a group of medical students who complained that in the midst of their training and the ferocious work hours they really didn’t even have time to read the Bible and have their devotions and so on. He bristled and said, “I am a doctor. I have been where you are. You have time for what you want to do.” After a long pause he said, “I make only one exception: the mother of preschool-aged children does not have time and emotional resources.

It is important to recognize, too, that there are stages of life where you really don’t have time to do much, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Children will sap you. If you have three children under the age of six, forget serious reading unless you have the money for a nanny. When our youngest finally went off to kindergarten, we celebrated that day—I took my wife out for lunch. Only then could she get back into reading again. It’s the way life is. You have to be realistic.

You can read the comments for some of our attempts to point out the flaws in his logic.  But it did make me think: what are some practical, concrete ways that Mommies of littles can still meditate on Scripture and spend time in prayer?  There are no “right” answers here, but these are some of the things I’ve personally experienced.


1. On the computer.

Be it a tablet, a laptop, or a full-fledged desktop, computers are a lot more child-friendly than a thin-paged Bible. Bibles and toddlers do not fare well together.  So let’s get out of the way, right away, that there’s nothing holier about reading a bound book than a glowing screen.  I’ll bet the glowing screen will be a lot easier. If you’re reading this blog post, you could be reading your Bible.

2. On index cards.

High schoolers taught me this one: write verses on cards and stick ‘em on your mirrors, on your windows, over your kitchen sink.  Who says it has to be a whole chapter? Better to eat a bite here and there than to starve!

3. With your children.

This is easiest if you invest in some good, Scripture-filled story Bibles.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading illustrated Bible stories to my kids and found my own heart profoundly convicted.  I imagine older kids would have the attention span to listen to a non-illustrated, real Bible reading, but for toddlers, I can speak firsthand of the great impact that an illustrated, but still literally Scripture or at least paraphrased Scripture, Bible story reading can bring to Mommy’s heart.  Similarly, you can memorize a story and tell it to your children.

4. When your children are asleep.

Naptime. I really believe in naptime, for many reasons. In our house it is a “quiet hour” (actually, two hours long) when the children are expected to be quietly in their room, by themselves, asleep or resting.  This is a great time to do things like talk to God and spend time reading His word.  Also, children, especially toddlers, need a lot more sleep than grown-ups, so hopefully they either go to bed way before you or get up much later than you – even more time to read and pray.

5. In music.

There is a LOT of music out there that is just Scripture.  Seeds Family Worship jumps first to my mind.  If I’m having trouble eking out time to sit down and read the Bible and pray, I’ll put on some Seeds or other Bible memory music and listen and sing and praise and pray while I’m dashing around the house chasing children, cooking dinner, or mopping floors.  Multitask!

6. With other people.

One thing I have learned about myself is that I can make time appear out of nowhere if there are other people expecting me to accomplish certain tasks.  In other words, all I need sometimes is a little push, a little pressure, to inspire me to tear through the laundry or the dishes in record time so I can sit down for a moment and get to the Bible study.  If I know someone is expecting me to have read and prayed, and expecting to discuss it with me… I’ll usually have figured out a way to get it done.

7. As a family.

This is like #3, of course, except that I’m talking about more of a “family worship” type thing here. This isn’t including the children in my devotional time, this is a time of mutual benefit in which I am following my husband’s lead.

8. In school.

If you homeschool, pay attention when you teach Bible!

9. On your phone.

Waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for the pediatrician to decide it’s time for the appointment to actually begin, sitting in the rocking chair nursing the baby, sitting next to your toddler soothing them to sleep, pacing the church foyer with a fussy baby… like computers, phones make great Bibles. I am not an extremely distractible person, but I still try to keep the apps on my Android phone at a minimum to encourage myself to reach for the Bible app rather than something else to alleviate those temporary moments of boredom.

10. Throughout the day, constantly.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
(2 Peter 1:3)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
(Psalm 119:11)

The message of the Word of God is relevant to our lives. If you live with toddlers, how do you answer the unending questions without cracking open the Bible? So many things in our daily lives tie back to the Word of God. So many things with children require the wisdom of Scripture. We have to know it and use it in order to evangelize our little ones.  We have to know it and use it in order to know how to behave ourselves.  We have to know it and use it in order to remind ourselves of the daily comforts of grace and the coming glory of heaven.  The words should come to our minds and be in our hearts and flow out of our mouths. If we don’t know the words, we should be flinging ourselves into the pages of Scripture and pleading with God to engrave it on our hearts.

Being without Scripture is like being without water. We thirst for God. We need to drink.

Mothering, Musings, Studying God

Skipping naptime? Proceed to Hell.

Julie / December 1, 2012


Mommy, am I going to go to Hell because I didn’t take my nap?
–Ellie, age 4

I posted this little quote on Facebook yesterday and it gathered no comments or likes, and I deleted it again after realizing that it probably sounded really stark and silly at a single glance.  What bizarre theology am I teaching her that she could ask such a question—to be eternally punished because of a missed nap?

And it is a silly question, at first glance, but I understood what she meant and was struck by it deeply, and I wanted to write an entry to explain the context.  Because it’s a good question, and one I should be asking myself.

As adults we don’t have anyone telling us to take naps, obviously, but for Ellie, the issue was one of obedience.  She wasn’t trying very hard to take a nap.  She was allowing herself to be distracted—and, even worse, she was distracting her sister into disobedience as well—and so, after hours of my failed attempts to coerce her into obedience, and eventually proclaiming that naptime was over, her question was a logical one.  She was disobedient. Disobedience is a sin. Sinners go to hell.  Is she going to hell?

The thing that struck me about the conversation was her concern for eternity over what was, by any measure, a small sin.  It seems absurd on the surface; surely God doesn’t send people to hell because they got distracted during naptime, right?

Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”
(Ezekiel 18:30-32)

There’s the very obvious answer that jumps to mind, that God’s grace is sufficient for all our sins.  If Christ died for her sin of disobedience, then of course she is safe from hell.  And that’s true.  1 John 1:9 clearly applies.

But what Ellie meant in this instance—which I know from the broader context of conversations we’ve had recently—was, “Mommy, I disobeyed you on purpose. Is this a sign that Jesus doesn’t reign in me?”

In other words, she was working out her salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

We should be really concerned when we sin, because sin doesn’t come out of “a new heart and a new spirit.” It comes out of a heart that is “desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9).


The Righteous is Scarcely Saved

I’ve been profoundly convicted in the past few weeks as I read verse after verse after verse that makes it clear that our salvation teeters on the edge of a knife:

If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
(1 Peter 4:18)

“Scarcely saved.” Those are really scary words.  When I came upon them in a Bible study a few weeks ago, I was shocked and immediately went digging for help.  What does it mean, that we’re scarcely saved? The verse is in the context of suffering: “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2). This is where Christians live: even though we are still in the flesh we are no longer for human passions but rather for the will of God.  The passage talks about the means God uses to accomplish this work in our hearts—how the “human passions” are trained to be put away by suffering—but the theme is rampant throughout Scripture on a very large scale.  Earlier in 1 Peter (2:11), Peter writes that the “passions of the flesh… wage war against your soul.”  In 1 John 3:8-9, John says:

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil… No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

In Romans, Paul, too, writes:

How can we who died to sin still live in it? …We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin… Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions…. thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness… now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
(Romans 6:2-22)

Colossians 2:11 says that in Christ we have put “off the body of the flesh.”

All this to say, Christians stop sinning. Here. Now.  We are no longer slaves to sin. We no longer make a practice of sinning.  We no longer live for human passions.  Ever.  If we do, we’re not Christians.


Fully pleasing to Him

For Ellie, her disobedience was naptime, and she has to evaluate her heart and see if she’s living in the flesh, or if she was doing “the very thing [she] hate[s]” (Romans 7:15).  Does she hate her sin and repent and make herself “a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31) and is simply wrestling with the sinful flesh she still has, or is sin reigning in her?  Because even the sin of being disobedient to Mommy at naptime is not the mark of a holy heart.  There is no sin too small to escape eradication by the Spirit, no sin so small that it can persist in the face of grace.  Ellie is not commanded to live a mostly holy, mostly obedient life.  Colossians 1:10, “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  Even the Apostle Paul was worried about his sinful flesh disqualifying him from heaven: “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability…
(1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
(Hebrews 12:1)

We don’t have to sin. By God’s grace and Christ’s blood, we are free from sin (Romans 6).  And if we are not being victorious over sin, Scripture tells us to be concerned about whether or not we are really being saved, or whether we “believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2).

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
(2 Corinthians 13:5)

So Ellie’s question really provoked me. Is it possible for a little tiny sin like disobedience at naptime to disqualify us from heaven? Yes! But as a grown-up, nobody is forcing me to take naps.  I had to stop and consider what my little sins might be. Something so little that I think it’s too insignificant for God to worry about…  Maybe my habit of reaching for a chocolate bar in response to stress rather than giving it all to God in prayer and hope.  Maybe when I carefully pick the perfect pictures to post on Facebook in hopes of obtaining man’s praise.  Maybe when I give in to exhaustion rather than being gracious and patient with my children. Maybe when I think my judgment is better than Seth’s, and more important than my following his lead. Maybe when I become preoccupied with one of my craft projects and fail to do a good job feeding my family and cleaning our house.  Maybe when I’m continually resistant to criticism, or continually falling into the habit of criticizing others or gossiping about their faults.  Maybe when I think that if I present the Gospel in just the right way, with just the right trappings and adornments, that I can convince people to follow Christ, rather than looking for the Spirit to work in their hearts by His simple truth.

I can’t live “for human passions” even a little bit.  Paul says, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that’s where I’ve got to live too.  There’s no room for “selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3), for ungracious speech (Colossians 4:6), or dishonorable conduct (1 Peter 2:12).  I can’t be one with the “appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). I can’t ever grumble or complain (Philippians 2:4). I can’t be quick to speak and slow to listen (James 1:19). Any one of these things is enough to disqualify me; any one of these things is enough to prove that my heart is not His, that sin still ensnares me, if I can’t (or don’t) lay it aside.  Small sins are reflective of an unrepentant heart, not the sign of a believing heart that has died to self and now lives in Christ (Colossians 3:3,5).

Holiness is not optional.  Even at naptime.  Even for a four-year-old.  I’m so thankful to God for the reminder.

Mothering, Old Wisdom, Wifehood

Duty of Parents to Children

Julie / November 26, 2012

Part Two of Julie attempting to make the Puritans more accessible to other sleepy mommies. (See Duty to Wives for a much wordier prelude.)  This is another piece from John Bunyan’s Christian Behavior.

If you are a parent—a father, or a mother—then you must consider your calling as a believer in light of that fact.  Your children have souls, and they must be born of God as well as born of you, or they will perish.  Further, unless you are very careful in your behavior to them and in front of them, they may perish because of you: this thought should provoke you to both instruct them and to correct them.

Instruct them as the Scripture says

To “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” and to do this diligently, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Ephesians 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:7).  To this end:

  • Use terms and words that are easy to understand.  Don’t talk in pretentious flowery language; that will drown your children.  God spoke thus easily to His children (Hosea 12:10) and Paul to his (1 Corinthians 3:2).
  • Be careful not to fill their heads with imaginative and unprofitable things, for this will teach them to be imprudently bold and proud, rather than sober and humble.  Talk to them about the innate sinfulness of man; talk to them about sin, death, and hell; of a crucified Savior, and the promise of life through faith: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
  • Fill all your instruction with gentleness and patience, “lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). And,
  • Work to convince them by reasonable discussion, that the things you teach them are not fables but realities: not only that, but realities so far above what we can enjoy here, that all things, even if they were a thousand times better than they are, are still not worthy to be compared with the glory and worthiness of the things of God.  Isaac was so holy in front of his children, that when his son Jacob remembered God, he remembered Him as “the Fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53).  When children can think of their parents, and bless God for that instruction and good they have received from them, it is not only profitable for children, but also an honor and comfort to parents: “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him” (Proverbs 23:24-25).

The duty of correction

  • See if fair words will win them from evil.  This is God’s way with His children (Jeremiah 25:4, 5).
  • Let the words you speak to them in correction be sober, few, and pertinent, always adding some relevant sentence of Scripture; for instance, if they lie, then something like Revelation 21:8, 27; or if they refuse to hear the Word, something like 2 Chronicles 25:14-16.
  • Take care that they not be friends with those who are rude and ungodly, rather, with soberness show them a continual dislike of their naughtiness, and often cry out to them, as God did of old to His children, “Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!” (Jeremiah 44:4)
  • Mix everything you say with such love, pity, and a spirit of anxiousness, that as much as possible, you may convince them that your dislike is not of their person, but of their sin.  This is God’s way (Psalm 99:8).
  • Constantly try to impress upon them the day of their death and the judgment to come.  Thus God also deals with His (Deuteronomy 32:29).
  • If you are driven to physical punishment, be cautious and clear-headed, soberly showing them a) their fault; b) how contrary it is to your heart to deal with them in that fashion, c) that you do what you do out of conscience to God and in love of their souls, and d) telling them, that if they could have been won over by any other way, that the severe punishment would not have been.  In all this you will be sure to not only afflict their bodies, but also their hearts, and since it is the way God deals with His children, it is the most likely to accomplish the desired goal.
  • Pray. Follow all this with prayer for them, and leave the issue to God: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).

Things to avoid

  • Be sure that the sin which you try to correct is not one they learned from you.  Many children learn the sins of their parents, the very sins for which the parents beat and chastise.
  • Be careful not to smile at them for small faults, and encourage them, so that your behavior will not be an encouragement to them to commit even greater sins.
  • Don’t use unsavory and ugly words in your correction of them, such as railing at them, calling them names, and so on: this is of the devil.
  • Don’t mix chiding and threatening words with lightness and laughter: this will harden their hearts.  Don’t correct them too long or too often, but be relevant and very serious.
Mothering, Old Wisdom, Wifehood

The Duty of Wives

Julie / November 24, 2012

John Bunyan’s Christian Behavior is a marvelously useful little work.  Unfortunately, it is also hundreds of years old and difficult to read.  Here I attempt to modernize the most immediately relevant part, and I hope to continue and add on some of the other parts.  I have had to add phrases here and there and try to simplify some things, because I think Bunyan’s assumptions of his audience’s foreknoweledge is different and inaccurate for today’s audience, and I have also changed the Scripture text to the modern ESV (modernizing the old English seemed pointless when we have our own even more accurate translation available).  But I’ve tried to understand and put forth what Bunyan intended to communicate as accurately as my grasp of English allows, without adding or taking away anything on my own.  Let me only add that there is some very useful advice hiding in the “Objections” section even for us whose situation is far from objectionable.

First, let me speak to the wives.  The wife is bound by Scripture to her husband, as long as he lives (Romans 7:2).  Therefore her work and place is in the family.

Let me discuss the things which the wife should conscientiously observe in the way she treats her husband.

She must look upon him as her head and lord.

“The head of a wife is her husband” (1 Corinthians 11:3), and so Sarah called Abraham lord (1 Peter 3:6).

She should therefore be subject to him, as is fit in the Lord.

Paul says, “wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1; Colossians 3:18).  As I said earlier [in a different section of the book], if the husband walks toward his wife in a becoming manner, he will be an ordinance of God to her, in addition to the relation of a husband, that will show her how Christ loves His church.  Similarly, if the wife walks with her husband in a becoming manner, she will preach the obedience of the church to her husband. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:24).

Run away from these evil tendencies:

A wandering and gossiping spirit.

      This is evil in the church, and it is also evil in a wife, because she is the figure of a church.  Christ loves to have his spouse keep at home, i.e. to be with him in the faith and practice of His things – not to be ranging and meddling with the things of Satan.  So, too, wives should not be prone to wandering and gossiping outside their home.  Proverbs 7:11 says, “She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home.”  Wives should be about their husbands’ business at home, as Paul says, let them “be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.”  Why?  So “that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5).

An idle, talking, or squabbling tongue.

      This is an odious habit in all women, married or not, if they behave like parrots and do not control their tongues.  But the wife, who knows that her husband is her lord and over her just as Christ is over the church, should control her tongue.  Do you think it is good for the church to ramble and repeat nonsense against Christ rather than being silent before Him, looking to His laws, rather than inventing its own fictions?  Why should the wife behave any differently toward her husband? “Let a woman,” Paul writes, “learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).  It is a horrifying thing to see a woman so much as once in her life to strive to be over her husband; she ought in everything to be in subjection to him, and to do everything she does as if her ability, license, and authority is from her husband.  This is her glory, to be under him, just as the church is under Christ; “she opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26).

Taking on immodest apparel or behavior.

      This is evil both outside the home and inside.  Outside, it not only gives a poor example, but tempts others to lust and vulgar behavior.  In the home, it offends a godly husband, and encourages ungodliness in children.  So, “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,” (1 Timothy 2:9-10), and, “do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands” (1 Peter 3:3-5).

Do not think, however, that because of the subjection I have just discussed, that I intend women should be their husbands’ slaves.  Women are their husbands’ yoke fellows, their flesh and their bones, and he is not a man that hates his own flesh or is bitter against it (Ephesians 5:29).  Let every man “however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).  The wife is master of the house next to her husband, and is to rule all in his absence: in his presence, she is to guide the house, to bring up the children, provided she does it so that no adversary can reproach her (1 Timothy 5:10, 13).  “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. A gracious woman gets honor, and an excellent wife is the crown of her husband,” (Proverbs 31: 10, 11:16, 12:4).

Objection: But my husband is an unbeliever. What can I do?

In that case, what I have said is even more important for you.  Your husband as an unbeliever will be even more watchful to take your mistakes and weaknesses and throw them as dirt in the face of God and your Savior.  He will be apt to make the worst of each of your words, actions, and gestures, and all this will harden his heart even further and prejudice him and cause opposition to his own salvation.  So Peter said, “wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1-2).  Your husband’s salvation or damnation is strongly influenced by your manner and behavior before him.  So, if there is any fear of God in you, or any love for your husband, seek to win him to the love of his own salvation by your behavior full of meekness, modesty, holiness, and humble behavior toward your husband.  By doing this, “how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband” (1 Corinthians 7:16).

Objection: But my husband is not just an unbeliever, he is very prone to be contrary to God, to be easily irritated, and quick to anger. I don’t know how to speak to him, or behave in front of him.

Indeed, there are some wives in great slavery because of their ungodly husbands, and we should always pity and pray for them so that they may be even more watchful and careful in all their ways.

1. Be very faithful to him in all the things of this life.

2. Patiently bear his unruly and sinful behavior: remember that you are alive in Christ and he is dead in sin; you are principled by grace, he is principled by sin.  But, seeing grace is stronger than sin, and virtue is stronger than vice, do not be overcome by his vileness, but overcome it with your virtues (Romans 12:21).  It is a shame for those who are filled with grace to be as careless with their words as those who do not have that grace: “whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29).

3. A wise woman will observe convenient times and seasons, if at any time you want to speak to your husband for his conviction, concerning anything, whether good or evil. There is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).  Now for the right timing for your intentions, here are some thoughts:

  • Consider his disposition, and approach him when he is the least in the thrall of those sins that are so bothersome to you.  Abigail would not speak a word to her disagreeable husband until he was no longer under the influence of alcohol, and was in a sober temper (1 Samuel 25:36-37).  If you don’t take heed of his disposition, that’s why so much of what you say seems to be ineffectual.
  • Talk to him when he’s being loving and friendly toward you, and when he proves his love and delight in you.  This is what Esther did with her husband the king, and she prevailed (Esther 5:3,6; 7:1,2).
  • Notice when he is seized by conviction, and follow his conviction up with sound and serious words from Scripture.  This is similar to how Manoah’s wife dealt with her husband (Judges 13:22,23).  Even then, a) let your words be few, and b) let nothing you say be domineering over him, but still take care to speak to him respectfully as your head and lord, pleading and entreating him, and c) speak in such a sympathetic spirit, with deep and obvious affection for his well-being, that the entire manner of your speech and behavior toward him is itself an argument that you are speaking in love as one who is aware of his misery, and enflamed with the desire in your soul for him to be converted to Christ.  Further, d) follow your words and your behavior with prayer for his soul, and e) continue to keep your behavior holy, pure, and modest before him.

Objection: But my husband is an addict, a fool, and can’t even hold down a stable job.

Still, you must know he is your head, your lord, and your husband.You must take great care that you don’t want to steal his authority.  He was not made for you, for you to rule over him, but he was made to be your husband, and rule over you (1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8).So, even though you may have more discretion and ability than he does, you have to keep in mind that you, and all that is yours, is to be used under his authority.  Even “everything” (Ephesians 5:24).  Be careful that what you do is not done to your name and your credit, but to his; not to your praise but to his; arranging everything so that by your hard work and wisdom, no one may discover your husband’s weaknesses due to your actions.  “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” and, “she does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 12:4, 31:12).

Therefore act, and behave, as one who is under the power and authority of your husband.


As far as your behavior to your children and your servants: you are a parent and an employer, and so you ought to consider yourself.  Because the believing wife is a figure of the church, she ought, as the church, to nourish and instruct her children and her servants, just as the church.  And, actually, the wife being always at home, has a great advantage in this task – so do it, and may the Lord prosper your obedience.