From what I am hearing, five days into an unplanned project to home school the nation, it seems to going better than anyone could have imagined, but there are many, very real, challenges as we walk into these uncharted waters.
Over this last week I have been recalling a time in our family’s life when we were in a totally new world, isolated from everyone we knew, living in an apartment that we later measured and discovered was only 75m square. We were together 24/7, and as parents we were fully responsible for the education of our 3 children, who at the time were 9, 11 and 13.
We were no experts then and are still not now, but as a family we still like each other and learnt a few things through our experience which may help you now.
I have wracked my brain for some things that helped us and which may help you. Take the ideas that you think could work for you and ignore the rest.
- Involve your children in decisions that affect them – you’re all in this together and their perspective can be helpful and is often insightful.
- Read, read, read. Read to your children, read with your children and have them read to you. Expand your reading your beyond your usual genres, borrow books from friends, read fiction and non-fiction, but read, read, read.
- Be the most encouraging person in your child’s life. Let’s face it, their world has just got really small too. They aren’t seeing their friends, many things are uncertain, they may be grieving the things that they have lost, and your words of encouragement are needed more than ever.
- Don’t try to be your child/teen’s teacher. They have teachers and they don’t need an extra one who lives with them! Instead be the ones who provide the general structure to the day (start time, drink and snack at break, lunch, after school cuppa etc) and let them grow into their new routines.
- If your child gets into something new at this time, encourage them go with it. They willl learn valuable skills as they research what they are interested in and are more likely to enjoy what they are learning. In those days for us it was British History, and today the same child is learning to juggle.
- Work with them to make a timetable which fits their school schedule and don’t micro-manage their work load. We discovered that even quite small children can manage their own school work with guidance, and most become very effective self-learners within a matter of weeks. This won’t happen overnight, but keeping our mouths shut whilst they work it out will pay dividends for years and years to come.
- You are all at home now, therefore you are all making more mess, using the toilet more and eating all your meals at home. That is a LOT of clearing and cleaning. Sharing out meal preparation, cleaning and tidying is a must for harmonious living in lock-down. There are lots of ways to do this; tidy up time every day – all hands on deck with loud music is one way, making a rota is another. Decide together and encourage each other to stick it. Review it in a week and make adjustments according to what works for your family, but don’t leave it to one person – that’s just not kind.
- Respect the needs of your child for alone time or time away from the rest of the family. Introverts find it hard to be around people all the time and need time to re-charge. We often found our introvert in the wardrobe playing with her playmobil and knew we needed to leave her there until she was ready to come out! Our son said 2 hour bike rides were the key to his sanity.
- Make meal times an occasion, especially the main meal of the day. Take your time, play board games or card games at the table afterwards – you’ve got no-where else to go and this is precious family time that we can endure or enjoy, the choice is all ours.
- Good enough IS good enough. Be kind to yourself
None of this is rocket science, and it is certainly not intended to be expert parenting guidance, but hopefully there is something here from our experience of home school life that will help you in this time (I bet you never thought you would have a ‘home school life’ – crazy days!).
Topics: Children, Youth
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I recently read the excellent book “Getting your kids through church without them ending up hating God”, by Rob Parsons. If you haven’t yet read it yourself, I recommend it. In his book Rob mentions parents’ top five fears as identified by Jack and Jerry Scheur:
• The fear that our children will make a life-dominating mistake
• The fear that our children will not turn out ‘right’
• The fear that we are failing as a family
• The fear that we will lose our children through illness or serious accident
• The fear that our children will not live according to our values or beliefs
I can identify with having had all of these fears at one time or another during my own journey of being a parent.
When a child is born a parent is full of hopes and dreams for that child. But the problem is that they are an independent person with a will of their own, and as they grow we realise that we cannot always control the choices they make. I find it reassuring to remember that even God sometimes has trouble with his children’s choices.
It was the final one of these fears, the fear that our children will not live according to our values or beliefs, that formed the basis of a workshop we led with some Ethiopian parents on our visit to Addis Ababa in February. What follows is a brief snapshot of what we shared.
There is no special formula, no pre-determined mould and no guarantees when it comes to passing on our faith to our children, and we cannot bear the whole responsibility for raising Godly children. The best we can do is try to influence them by living a Godly life and sharing our faith with them. Even then we will fail to do this perfectly, our children will ultimately make their own choice. Four suggestions that we shared with the parents in Addis were:
Pray fervently. Remember 1 Peter 2 v5. The devil is prowling around looking for the young, weak and vulnerable, ready to steal them away and destroy their lives. We need to pray fervently and intentionally for our children as often as we can. Pray for God to protect them, convict them of their sin and call them into his family. Pray for the development of a Godly character and for wisdom in their future life choices. Don’t leave anything to chance. It is our privilege to be involved in what God wants to do in their lives, and our responsibility to speak on their behalf while they are too young to do it for themselves.
Model a faith worth following. Actions really do speak louder than words. It is no good expecting them to develop a faith that we are not living out daily for ourselves. Children are not fools; they will know if you are one person in public and a different person at home. We need to keep our own walk with the Lord strong and active. Spend time with Him every day. Reflect the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Foster an atmosphere of repentance and forgiveness in the home. Share stories of how we came to faith and talk to them of how God has answered our prayers. Read the Bible with them and teach them to pray about their worries.
Connect with others. Making it a habit to attend church regularly and spend time with others will help children to feel at home in the church, to find a place where they are loved and accepted for who they are, and where they can find the support of an extended family though children’s and youth leaders and a multitude of honorary “aunties”, “uncles” and “grandparents”. When life gets tough for them, as it inevitably will at some point, they will have someone else to talk to other than us.
Prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead. Being a Christian is not easy and we do our children a disservice if we teach them that it is. Thy will face temptations, times of silence from God, disappointment, being let down by people they trusted, and their own failure. Any of these can feel devastating at the time. Our children need to know they are not alone as they experience confusion, doubt and frustration in their walk of faith. Being honest with them about the challenges we face will help them to understand and accept it when they experience them for themselves.
Finally, remember there are no guarantees with any of this, but God loves your children even more than you do and willingly gave his life for them. It is never too late for your child to turn to God. He is longing to have a relationship with them and will never stop pursuing them.
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I am writing this as we head into Easter. I love Easter as it shows us just how much God loves us. God has a massive heart for children and we want them to know the message of Easter.
We hope to share this during our annual Holiday Club, which have been running for just over a decade and this year the theme is a ‘Boot Camp’. The church hall has been transformed into a jungle and we will be cadets in training, being put through our paces with all sorts of fun and crazy activities, looking at how Jesus followed His Father in Heaven.
This club is for primary school aged children and runs from 16th to 18th April, 10am – 12pm.
We also have our Easter Eggstravaganza for preschool children and their families, on Saturday 19th April, 10am – 12pm. This will have activities for both parents and children to enjoy, and include an Easter egg hunt!
And during the week…
We aim to make Holland Road a place where children and families love to come, and every week over 200 children come and enjoy one of our activities. We currently run 4 midweek groups for children, with 3 groups on a Sunday morning.
We start the week with Tadpoles, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 9.30am-11.30am. This is a preschool group for mums, dads, toddlers and babies to enjoy a host of fun activities. These include crafts, singing time and free play.
Minnows Play-Cafe is on a Wednesday afternoon and is also for preschool children, running from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. We offer a light lunch menu for adults and children, we learn and explore new things together and ensure that the children have great fun playing. We also get the children singing their favourite songs in our Big Fun Time.
The other midweek club is for primary school children and is called The Hub. This runs from 4.30pm to 6pm, and includes a healthy cooked meal. The Hub is action-packed and full of activities, which have previously included art, sports and games, cookery, dance, drama, and electronics. We have a VIP time where we sing with our youth band and have a moral faith lesson from the Bible. Recently a dad spoke to me at the end of the Hub, commenting that he was overwhelmed by all the things we are doing for his daughter and the children in the community. He said,
“‘Tuesday nights are brilliant, and a great environment for kids to be encouraged!’
On a Sunday the fun and faith-building time continues as we run Discoverers. These age-related activities are attended by 60-70 children. This is great fun and we hope that the children love church, make lasting friendships and be all God has made them to be.
More information on all our children’s clubs can be found at hrbc.org.uk/children, or you can speak to someone at the Connections Point after our Sunday services.
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I’m Matt and I have the privilege of overseeing all our children’s activities and communities at Holland Road.
Every week around 200 children, from ages 0-11, enjoy a whole range of activities with us.
Every Sunday the children meet as Discoverers, which are split into three different age groups:
Dinkys for ages 0-3 , Minis if you’re 3-5, and for the 5-11 year olds, there is Megas. These are packed full of fun, faith-building activities such as singing, dancing (if you can!), watching drama, playing games, doing craft and lots of discussion as the children are encouraged to learn more about the Bible and God’s good plan for their lives.
During the week we also run three communities for babies, toddlers and parents/carers. These are fun for both children and adults, and are a great place to make friends. Tadpoles runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9.30am to 11.30am, with lots of great, educational toys plus a singing-time where the kids get to sing some of their favourite nursery rhymes. For the grown-ups there is always good coffee and glorious cake made by one of the mums!
Minnows play-cafe meets on a Wednesday afternoon from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. This is a place where we play, learn, and eat. We serve the cheapest paninis in town, so you can eat with the kids and play with lots of toys too! There is also a ‘Big Fun Time’, when we join together to listen a story, play a big game, learn something new and sing and jump!
Mums told us: “I love this group!”, “It’s brilliant!”
For older children there is The Hub. This is our Tuesday after-school club, from 4.30pm to 6pm, for children of primary school age. This is definitely not to be missed if you like hanging out with friends, playing games and doing an activity of your choice. These have recently included football and other sports, craft, dance, drama, book-group and cooking.
“My son was so excited about The Hub, he asked on Monday if he could go there today!” shared one happy parent.
We also have VIP time where we join our youth band to sing songs and listen to a faith-based story with a moral life lesson. We finish with a home-made healthy meal with pudding. All for just £1.50! We also have a bag of tuck for when the kids are being picked up and are on their way home.
If you want to get involved in any of these communities, please check out hrbc.org.uk/children for more details.
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Building on the past success of the Hive we are launching the Hub on Tuesday 10th September 2013.
The Hub is our new mid-week children’s club for children of primary school age, on Tuesdays from 4.30 to 6.30pm (during term time). It will be the place to be for children from the community and church to come and have fun, make friends and enjoy great activities.
The obvious change from the Hive is that the Hub has an earlier start and finish time to help connect with younger children and school finishing times. We have also changed the format to start with age-specific games and a chill-out area for the older children. The children will then get to choose from one of three creative activities including cooking, craft, making things, drama, dance, sports, games and other fun skills. We will then have a ‘VIP’ (Very Important Part) time where we get to learn a life lesson from the Bible and sing songs with our live youth band.
We will finish with a freshly cooked meal together, which will feature competitions and a topic to get us all talking! We are passionate about making it a lot of fun and creating a safe and caring environment to help encourage the children to make friends and thrive. We are looking forward to this new beginning and hope you will be part of it.
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I am writing to tell you that in September we are re-launching our children’s work with some very exciting changes. Holland Road is blessed with a great number of children, with around 65 children aged 0-11 coming to church every Sunday morning. They are a fantastic bunch made up of babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, infants and juniors.
Favourite part of the week
We hope to invest in them so they can grow up to be all God wants them to be. We aim to make church their favourite part of the week, where they can encounter God and grow in faith as they follow Him. We hope that the children feel a part of the church and make lasting friendships with each other.
We are calling the overall ministry to children ‘Discoverers’ but breaking it down in to three main groups. Dinky Discoverers for 0-3 years, Mini Discoverers for 3-5 years, and Mega Discoverers for 5-11 years. These different groups will be a safe and caring environment with tailored age-related activities to help the children thrive and equip the children to live for God. They will include creative storytelling from the Bible, dramas, worship songs, craft, refreshments and a lot of fun too!
We will also have a ‘meet and greet’ team who will be on hand in the foyer to welcome and assist families. They will also give out registration forms, the children’s work safeguarding policy and the parent information booklet, which will have information on each of the specific groups. This team will also be available to show parents around before the service and help make them and the children feel at home.
Finally, if you’re a regular Holland-roader then I want to thank you for your support of the children’s ministry over the years and as we move forward into this exciting new chapter.
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