Are You Teaching Your Kids About Personal Finances?

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"Parents cannot abdicate the teaching of finances to the schools, because the schools aren't teaching it. It's astounding to think that you can get through elementary school, high school, and college and still not know how to balance a checkbook, or buy a home, or decide what kind of insurance you need. But, unfortunately, that's the norm."

You will find this paragraph in the introduction of the Money Matters for Teens Workbook by Larry Burkett with Todd Temple. For those of us who have children in public (and probably even private) school, this is a helpful reminder that we cannot depend on the schools to prepare our children for life. In addition to teaching practical matter of life (like finances), Christian parents have to remember that God has given us the responsibility to disciple our children (Deut 6:4-9; Eph 6:4). We cannot depend on others to fulfill this role in our children's lives (not even the church!). 

For those of us who homeschool our children, this norm only confirms our reasoning for home education. But it is probably still worth asking home educators: Are you making sure to include personal finance in your teaching plan? We are using this workbook as a part of ours. 

One more reason that teaching personal finance to our children is important: "It's sad that half of all marriages today fail and, overwhelmingly, the major factor is the mismanagement of money." 

[Photo by Olly Joy on Unsplash]

Pre-Marriage Counseling is Like Cramming for an Exam

Last week I sat down with a young couple for some pre-marriage counseling. They both were homeschooled and grew up in solid homes. I told them that in some ways pre-marriage counseling is like cramming for an exam. It is possible to get some new information that way, but not the best way to really learn something. I explained that all that they know about marriage, whether good or bad, they have already learned from their parents. They have been receiving pre-marriage counseling for most of their lives!

During our meeting the young man told me about a homeschoooled friend of his whose marriage only lasted a couple of years! Growing up in a “Christian homeschool” home is no guarantee for a lasting marriage.

Dads and Moms, please don’t forget that you are not only teaching your children about work, math, character, writing, and money managment. Whether you realize it or not, every day you are teaching your children about marriage! Step back and ask yourself what you are teaching them. Do you want your children to have a marriage like yours?

Regular investment and growth in your marriage is a wonderful way to minister to your children. That is why we are putting on a Marriage Conference called Finding Peace and Purpose in your Marriage [Boone, NC on March 16-18, 2017]. Check out this link for more information.

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Discussing Great Books with Your Children

My daughter and I have both recently read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This work definitely qualifies as a "great book." It includes a street-level look at the French Revolution, is written from a sound worldview, and presents a wonderful story of self-sacrifice. Here is a taste of the literary genius and insightful reflection offered by Dickens. This passage also emphasizes the importance of learning from history.

Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.
— Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Raising Lifelong Learners

This is my first born’s senior year of High School. My wife and I are asking ourselves what areas of knowledge and skill we want to make sure we cover this year. So, it is time to make good on my promise: “No one graduates High School from our home unless you have worked through this book with Dad: How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren.”

Why is this book so important? Because one of the most critical skills I can impart to my children is the ability to learn. I don’t want to complete our home education only feeding my children fish. I want to teach them to fish. A person who has the skill of learning has the ability to find the information they need, to decide which books to read, to comprehend what is in those books, to critically evaluate their arguments, and to compare and synthesize this information with other sources. How to Read a Book teaches all of these skills! To learn more about why this book is important and what it teaches, you can listen to the workshop I gave at the Thrive! The NCHE Homeschool Conference, Raising Lifelong Learners.

I have developed a syllabus for my daughter and I to work through this year. I am sharing this syllabus with you so you might be encouraged to use this book as well. Ideally, the parent or teacher overseeing this class will read the book with the student. A sharp High School student could possibly work through it himself. I have designed this to be a portion of Bethany’s English credit for this year, taking about 22 weeks. If it were taken seriously, it could be completed as a semester elective for a half credit.

One more question: if you would be interested in having your student participate in an online course working through this syllabus with us, contact me at matthew@truthtofreedom.org.

Is Your Family Stuck in the Raging River of Busyness?

Sometimes our lives feel like we have been thrown into a rushing river. We are just trying to survive, barely keeping our heads above the water and avoiding the jagged rocks. We have little control over our direction and speed. This is how we feel when we have surrendered to the tyranny of the urgent. We are at the mercy of deadlines, appointments, and activities. We are driven by what the culture says we must do, by what others want us to do and by the gratification of our immediate desires.

But I have had enough of this. I have sputtered and bumped along in these rapids for too long, watching my life whiz by, watching my children grow up. God has given me a call and purpose for my family, and it is not being accomplished in this raging river of busyness!

So I desperately swim for the shore, not even sure I can break through the powerful currents. Drenched, coughing and exhausted, I crawl out onto the bank. And now I am asking myself, “What is this supposed to looks like? How do I build a different life?”

First, I must refocus on my purpose and mission as a follower of Jesus Christ. My purpose and mission is to love God, love people, and make disciples. This is not only the purpose and mission of each of us as believers, but of our families as well.

Next, in order to see what my life is supposed to look like, I reflect on my biblical responsibilities and priorities. I have come up with five areas of responsibility and priority. These are the ways that we can fulfill our purpose and mission in our families.

  1. Relationships

  2. Discipleship

  3. Order and Work

  4. Education

  5. Ministry

Relationships

To be a family is to have relationships. To love others is to relate to them. How am I loving my wife and children? Am I treating them with kindness, patience and selflessness? Am I affirming and accepting them? What kind of relationships am I building with them? Are we making time to talk? Are we spending time together? Strong relationships are the foundation for the next category, discipleship.

Discipleship

To disciple others is to help them love God, love people and make disciples. This must be the ultimate goal of family because it is the ultimate goal of life. How am I helping my family to love God? How am I helping them to love others? How am I equipping them to know their own gifting, calling and personal ministry?

Order and Work

Loving God includes stewardship. All that we have is from God, and our responsibility is to care for what he has given us and use it to bless others. Stewardship requires work: cleaning, organizing and maintaining. Work is our contribution to the family and community and it is how we provide for our basic needs so that we are free to minister to others. A messy, chaotic home is not a place where discipleship, education or ministry can thrive.

Education

Education is the acquisition of knowledge and skill. These are tools for helping us accomplish our God given mission. Facilitating and leading our children in the acquisition of knowledge and skill is part of our responsibility as parents. Am I faithful in educating my children? Am I preparing them for a life of productivity and blessing to others?

Ministry

Ministry is the culmination of all that we have discussed so far. A spouse is a partner in ministry. A family is a ministry team. Are we joining God in his work to build his kingdom? Are our hearts beating with his for the nations? What are we doing as a family to express the love and truth of God to others? How much of our time is spent serving and entertaining ourselves? Are we intentionally giving our money, time  and energy for ministry?

By faith I am rejecting the tyranny of the urgent. I will break the patterns of busyness and reactionism. Instead of focusing on what others expect from me, I will focus on what God desires for me. By faith I am choosing a life of peace and purpose for my family. In order to do this, I will make these five building blocks my priorities: relationships, discipleship, order and work, education  and ministry. It may be a desperate swim to the shore, but God can help me make it. He can give me everything I need to live out his fantastic mission for my family.

Do You Really Have What It Takes to Homeschool Your Children?

Well, I have bad news and good news. First, the bad new: No, you don’t really have what it takes to homsechool your kids. If you have not figured this out yet, it is the first important step to being able to successfully do so.

Now, the good news: By God’s grace you have everything you need to homeschool your children!

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times,
you may abound in every good work."

(2 Cor 9:8)

I think we all already know that teaching our children at home is a “good work.” But how often do you find yourself with nothing left, out of energy, creativity, and patience? That doesn’t sound very abundant and sufficient. Is this because God is not giving you the grace to accomplish this good work? Of course not.

We receive God’s grace by faith. It is up to us to depend on him. We are not just imparting knowledge to our children, we are preparing them to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives (See Make Knowledge Easy for Your Children). Therefore, we can be sure God will empower us to accomplish this task!

Here are three ways you can depend on God’s grace for your homeschool: prayer, Scripture, and God’s Spirit.

Prayer     Are you praying truth from God’s Word by faith for your children every day? Are you asking for God’s wisdom, strength,  and anointing for your time with the children each day? Are you diligently seeking him for what he wants you to teach them?

Scripture   Is God’s Word a central part of your homeschool? Are you reading, explaining, and memorizing God’s Word with your children? Are you discussing real life issues with reference to God’s Word? Are you helping your children build a biblical worldview?

God's Spirit     Are you the only teacher in your homeschool? I don’t mean that your spouse or others in your family or community help teach. I mean, is the Teacher present? Do you expect him to be? Are you depending on him to show up and help educate and train your children for life?

Can you envision your home a place of energy, joy, peace, and spiritual fruit? This is God’s will for your family! By faith take hold of his awesome, abundant, powerful grace!

Make Knowledge Easy for Your Children

What if I told you I discovered a Bible verse that revealed the secret to making it easy for your children to acquire knowledge? Well . . . I did. Ready? Here it is:

"A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding."

(Proverbs 14:6 ESV)

Did you read that? “Knowledge is easy”! How? First, we have to understand the difference between knowledge and understanding. It is the difference between facts and wisdom. It is the difference between knowing historical data and understanding what history can teach us about the world. It is the difference between knowing how to do something and knowing the right thing to do.

We live in a culture that has elevated knowledge above skill and wisdom. Our schools teach for knowledge—worksheets, testing. They do not emphasize skill or morality. For me, even gaining knowledge took second place to a much more important goal: passing classes and graduating!

Many of us who are teaching our children at home are products of this educational system. Many of us have made the mistake of taking public school objectives and strategies home with us. So, how can we correct this perspective and the resulting strategies? Let me give you a couple ways:

1. Aim for more than knowledge.

Knowledge is important. But it is not the most important. Very rarely do we acquire knowledge for its own sake, just to know it. We acquire knowledge to accomplish a more practical goal. We have projects, hobbies, goals, jobs, repairs, and chores that require knowledge.

Of course, this is the answer to every child’s favorite question, “Why?” It seems that no matter what instructions or corrections I give my children, they always ask the same question: “Why?” I think “Because I said so” is an appropriate answer. However, it can’t be the only answer. At some point our children will have to understand the why of what they are learning. The goal of learning is related to understanding. When we know why we are learning something then we understand it and it is much easier to learn.

So, how do we identify the why of what we are teaching? If we are aiming for more than knowledge, then what are we aiming for? Here is the simplest, and most important place to start:

2. Prepare your children to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.

This must be the ultimate goal of all education because it is the ultimate goal of life. And what is God’s purpose for your children’s lives? Generally speaking, we all have the same purpose: to love God (Mark 12:30), love people (Mark 12:31), and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20).

Paul specifically contrasts knowledge and love in 1 Cor 8 and 13:

"This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
If anyone imagines that he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God."

(1 Corinthians 8:1-3 ESV)

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
. . .  but have not love, I am nothing."

(1 Corinthians 13:2 ESV)

Knowledge is a means to an end. The end is love. EVERYTHING we do (and everything we teach) ought to have this purpose.

You want to make knowledge easy (or at least easier) for your children? Then put it in a meaningful context. Place it in submission to our ultimate purpose in life. The real challenge of teaching our children should not be wrestling with them over math or history. The real challenge should be imparting to them wisdom, a biblical worldview, a love for God, and a commitment to his purpose for their lives.