Category Archives: Series

Scripture Memory and Bible Copying – Part 4

When I received several e-mails asking questions about Scripture memory and Bible copying, I thought they would be good topics for a Mom’s Corner. As I got started, I discovered that there was much more to say about memorizing Scripture than I could fit into a normal-length Mom’s Corner. This month’s article will conclude the series, finally reaching the subject of Bible copying. Next month I plan a related follow-on subject.

From the beginning of our homeschooling, we have used Scripture verses for our children’s handwriting work, as they learn first how to print, then practice it, and finally move to cursive penmanship. However, it is only in the past three years that we have begun having our children do actual Bible copying.

In Deuteronomy we find some beautiful verses that describe how the king of Israel was to copy Scripture and the benefits that copying and daily reading the Word would have for him. “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

So far we have used spiral notebooks for the children to copy into. However, we have seen how using a 3-ring binder with loose-leaf paper would be an option as well. In the spiral notebooks, the children are limited if they accidentally skip a few verses. There is no way to insert an extra page, and that option would be available if they were writing on loose-leaf paper. This would also allow them to redo a page and insert it in if we wanted them to do that. We like the spiral notebooks because the pages stay together, and when a child completes a notebook it is already bound together.

Our children have done their Bible copying with pencil rather than pen. That is because when they make a mistake, the pencil allows them to erase and redo it without making the page look bad. They will make errors as they copy that they will catch, and I find things that they have missed that need to be fixed.

Steve started the children in Genesis with their Bible copying, but after a few weeks they jointly decided to move to Matthew. Often if a child is working on memorizing a chapter of Scripture, he will use that chapter for his Bible copying until he completes it and then move back to his other copying. That is another advantage for copying into a 3-ring binder on loose-leaf paper versus a spiral notebook, because the chapters can then be placed into the 3-ring binder in the correct order.

The Bible copying is part of the children’s school time. When they are Bible copying, they are easily able to set their minds on things above as Colossians 3 tells us to do. They also are receiving spelling, handwriting, and grammar practice. One of our children was completing her spelling curriculum well each week, but it wasn’t transferring to her daily writing. We decided to have her stop her spelling curriculum and increase her Bible copying time to see if that would help her with her spelling skills. For a younger child, I will read over his Bible copying every day during my one-on-one meeting with him. Then if there are any errors, he will correct them right then. For the older children, either Steve or I will occasionally look over their Bible copying for neatness and accuracy.

After the first Corner on Scripture memory, a mom wrote to me telling about how they had begun working on memory verses at mealtime after asking the blessing on the food. Here is her experience:

“Thanks for sharing the tip about reciting a Bible memory verse after saying grace. My three-year-old daughter is now learning her memory verse in couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.” Mom A

When I wrote to ask this mom for permission to use her testimony, not only did she give me her permission but she also gave some more details about how the memorizing was being facilitated by this method.

“We have been learning a verse for each alphabet letter. We’ve been struggling with the verses for letters A-L because they were only recited once a day, and often I would forget to do even that. When I read the Mom’s Corner, I was quite excited because I knew this would be an easy system to implement and would give practice several times a day.

“I started last week with ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8). We said our prayers before eating, and then I taught the verse verbally. The first day it was mainly my husband or I reciting the verse for my child, but by the end of the second day my three-year-old child could recite the verse.

“The reference seems to be more challenging for my child. We continue to recite it, but at this point I am happy with getting God’s Word into my child’s heart and references being learned later.

“The verse for this week started with the letter K, and it is, ‘Keep my commandments, and live. . .’ (Proverbs 7:2). This verse was also learned in two days, so I should try some longer verses. I also want to do a review week to review past verses.” Mom A

This family decided to use meals to give them a consistent time to work for a couple of minutes on memory verses. They had good success because of the consistency of the study. If it is important to learn the references, then slowing the pace down will allow for that. In not much more time, the reference will be learned as well. For a three-year-old child, that might mean he isn’t learning a verse every single week, but when the verse is down pat with the reference, the family can start on the next verse. We set whatever pace we choose.

Another family e-mailed and told how they had implemented using a whiteboard for memorizing Scripture. Here is what she said.

“Teri recently shared about using a whiteboard for Scripture memory. I loved the idea, and yesterday my husband bought me a whiteboard for this purpose. We have a built-in microwave in our kitchen but do not ever use it, and so it always bothered me being there. I hung the whiteboard right over it.

“We are working on the first section of Psalms 119 right now, and having it so central to where we spend much of our day has already been a blessing!!! My husband and I sat and read it several times last night when we were visiting after the kids were in bed, the children were reading it first thing this morning, and the non-readers were asking the older children to read it to them. I love this and look forward to it always being a central part of our kitchen. Thank you for sharing the idea!!!!” Mom B

I had a mom e-mail me and share with me her personal struggle with pride because of how young her child was and what she had helped him to memorize. The Lord convicted her of her pride, and drew her heart to focus on the truth of why one would memorize Scripture. Scripture memory is an empty discipline unless what is memorized is utilized in a life. It could lead to pride and hypocrisy—a knowledge of the Word without the life of the Spirit. However, if we are using what we memorize to help us walk in grace and obedience, Scripture memory is a powerful ally for us and for our children as we walk in the Spirit.

One other thought I want to share with you comes from a mom who wrote to me and told me what her husband says about Scripture memory. I loved the analogy, and I wanted to pass it on to you as well.

“My husband always says, remember that God’s Word is our sword, when we physically have it in our hands it is like having the sword in its sheath, but when we have it memorized it is like it is out of the sheath ready to do battle.” Mom C

Psalms 19 and Psalms 119 are beautiful passages of Scripture detailing the benefits and value of the Word in our lives and our children’s lives. Here is part of Psalms 19: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:7-14).

Because I have that desire for the Word of God in my life, I want to have the Word not only available when I can get a Bible out to read but also embedded in my mind, available anytime, anyplace. That is important for my children as well. May we be women who memorize the Word ourselves and also help our children memorize.

Scripture Memory and Bible Copying – Part 3

In the past few Mom’s Corners, I have been answering questions that were e-mailed to me concerning how my children memorize Scripture, how I memorize Scripture, and how we use Bible copying in our homeschool.

So far we have mostly covered how our younger children memorize Scripture, but in reality when I am helping them memorize, I am memorizing as well. This is memorizing that doesn’t take any extra effort on my part because I am already investing my time with the child with whom I am working.

However, I also desire to memorize verses and sections of Scripture that the Lord has put on my heart as having particular application to the greatest needs in my life. The places I choose to memorize come from my personal time reading the Word. When I come to a passage that is especially relevant to struggles and failures I am experiencing, I begin memorizing it if I am ready for something new on which to work, or I write it down in my quiet-time notebook to come back to when I finish memorizing the section on which I am currently working. Most of the time, I memorize from the New Testament, but I have also memorized various Psalms and a few other sections of the Old Testament.

When would one fit Scripture memory into a busy mom’s life? The Bible memory method I described in the first Mom’s Corner on Scripture memory, which I named the whiteboard-mealtime-grace method, is the simplest way to memorize without any impact to our time. I also find I can make steady, significant memorizing progress if I will just extend my scheduled time in the Word and prayer by five minutes. Those extra five minutes I spend on memorizing. In addition, I have used bigger chunks of time in the evening by going to bed ten to fifteen minutes early and memorizing while I wait for Steve to come to bed.

I do my personal memorization in much the same fashion as I shared in the first Mom’s Corner on Scripture memory, describing how I would help our pre-readers to memorize. I read the first phrase of the verse several times, and then I try to say it. If I need to, I look back at the verse. I keep doing this until I have that first phrase down. Usually this means I don’t move on to the second phrase that day because I won’t yet have learned the first phrase, especially if I am working on memorizing for only five minutes a day.

The second day, I will try to remember how the first phrase began, but generally it takes me a week or so to be able to start the verse on my own without looking. I am not discouraged by that, but I just keep plugging away, knowing that eventually I will be able to begin the verse without help. Even though I can’t start the phrase, by reviewing the first phrase the next day and working on it a bit more, I will be ready to move on to the second phrase.

When I have the second phrase down, I go back to saying the first phrase and attempt to add the second phrase to the first. If I can’t get it, I look back at the text for some help and go through the process again. Each succeeding day, I try to recall what I memorized the day before. Usually I will need to look at the first word or two to get me started. However, before long, I know the beginning of the newest phrase and no longer require the prompts to get me going. When I have a difficult section, I just stay on it until I get it. I don’t push myself because it is more important to me to really know what I am memorizing than to have covered a certain number of verses in a certain amount of time.

A key aspect that I discovered for my successful memorizing was to do it out loud. That helped me learn the verses faster and allowed me to be able to speak them when I wanted to say them. I used to memorize in my mind without speaking the verses aloud. However, when I tried to say the verses, I had trouble. I could recite them perfectly in my head, but when they came out of my mouth, they sounded different, and I would get stuck. When I moved to memorizing out loud, I then found the verses were at my disposal not only to recall in my mind but also to share with my family or someone else.

Reviewing memorized verses is important if we want to keep them in memory. I have memorized many verses in the past that I couldn’t repeat today, simply because there is only so much time that I can give for Scripture memory review. I didn’t choose to review those verses and eventually they were forgotten.

Even if I don’t keep verses in long-term memory by reviewing them, I have still seen benefit in memorizing them. When I choose a passage, there is usually a need in my life to which those verses speak. For example, I memorized 2 Corinthians 4:8-17 when I was struggling with depression. That whole passage spoke to my heart in the midst of the negative thoughts with which I wrestled. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). I couldn’t quote those verses to you today, but they ministered to me then. Because of memorizing them, I also know in a general way what they say and where to find them. In addition, even though verses I have memorized are forgotten, the Holy Spirit will recall them to me at times.

The sections of Scripture that I want to keep in mind, I will review. Obviously when I am memorizing I am reviewing what I am in the process of memorizing, but I also try to find other time to review previously-learned verses. One of those times is when I blow-dry my hair. I usually only take time to blow-dry my hair on Sunday mornings. I use those fifteen minutes each week to review previously-learned memory verses. I am currently working at teaching myself to go through memory verses when I shower. Right now, since it isn’t my habit, I forget more than I remember, but I am determined to keep trying. Eventually I will remember more than I forget, and then it will be my habit.

The Lord put on my heart that speaking His Word to myself rather than always thinking my own thoughts was part of what Colossians 3—a chapter I have memorized—tells me to do. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2) and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom. . .” (Colossians 3:16). I also like to use some of the time that we are traveling to review memory verses. I am sure there are a few minutes here and a few there that we all have which can be devoted to reviewing memorized verses—if we will look for that time.

If you would like some suggestions for sections of Scripture to memorize, I will share with you some of my favorites. The three portions of the Word that I currently keep reviewed are: Romans 12, Colossians 3, and Philippians 4:4-19. Here are other passages that I have memorized, and I think you would benefit from as well: John 14:1-21, John 15:1-17, James 1, Hebrews 11, Hebrews 12:1-11, 2 Timothy 2:1-15.

I would encourage you to keep an ongoing list of what you memorize. I haven’t done this until recently, and it saddens me that I don’t have a record of all the Scripture I have memorized over the years. I have also begun to keep a list of the Scripture we learn as a family by reciting it after saying grace at our meals.

Once again, I find that I need to bring this Mom’s Corner to an end, and I plan to conclude next month by finally getting to the subject of Bible copying. In addition, I have received a couple of Scripture memory testimonies that I would like to share with you. I want to encourage each of us not only to help our children memorize Scripture but also to make it a priority in our lives as well.

Scripture Memory and Bible Copying – Part 2

Last month I began sharing our family’s personal experience and application of Scripture memory in the Mom’s Corner. I believe that most of us, as Christians, have a desire to memorize the Word and to help our children memorize it as well. As Psalms 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” When we have Scripture embedded in our hearts through memorizing, we have it available day or night to guide our thoughts and actions.

In response to last month’s Mom’s Corner where I explained how I had worked with our preschoolers as they memorized verses, a mom wrote with additional suggestions for preschool Scripture memory. First she suggested having the children do something active while they were memorizing such as jumping up and down. Her second idea was to put hand motions and actions with the words. I wrote back to her and explained to her what had happened to us when we tried these memorizing methods when our children were small.

We found our children didn’t memorize as well doing something else such as jumping up and down. They laughed, giggled, and were quite occupied with jumping, but they didn’t get much Scripture memory accomplished. I was frustrated trying to get them to memorize when they wanted to play. We were more successful when I had one child sitting on my lap receiving individual attention without other distractions.

We also tried memorizing some of their verses with actions, but they didn’t learn them any faster than when we worked on them without actions. As a matter of fact, two things happened with the actions. First my preschoolers would give more of a focus to the hand motions than to learning the verse that accompanied those actions, and they become very silly over them as well. Another problem was that they would often forget the hand motions, so now we had two sets of things to memorize—the verse and what actions went with it.

While I understand that some would want to try to make memorizing Scripture fun and entertaining for a preschooler, we preferred to use time that I was one-on-one with a child to help him begin to learn self-control in being quiet, sitting still, and concentrating for a few short minutes. As preschoolers, the children had ample hours in their day to play but not nearly as much time to be with Mommy where she was completely centered on them, giving individual direction and help in developing some discipline. Self-discipline has to start somewhere, and how much easier it is to begin at a young age than to try to overcome the bad habits of self-indulgence later in life.

Will our little children be able to understand the verses that they memorize? Some they will, and some they won’t. We liked the preschool Scripture memory books from Scripture Memory Fellowship because they had done the work of choosing verses that were applicable to young children and ones that were simple. Sometimes Scripture memory doesn’t happen simply because we cannot figure out what to have our children memorize.

Another way that our children learn and remember Scripture verses is by Steve and me using verses in daily life. For example, Steve often quotes to his family and to others Matthew 16:24: “. . . If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Because of that, our family has learned Matthew 16:24 without trying to memorize it, and we regularly mention it to each other when we need encouragement to move our thoughts off of ourselves. We can also use it when talking with people outside the family.

Here is another example of learning Scripture by using it. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” That is a verse I share regularly with my children if their words or attitudes take on a grumbly tone. The more we apply the Word to our daily lives, the more we and our children will become familiar with it, and the more likely we will be to memorize those verses that we are using in those contexts.

I have heard some say that we should not use Scripture to correct our children. They indicate that if we bring Scripture into discipline situations, we will give our children a negative view of God. However, 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Our basis for what is right and what is wrong is based in the Word. If we don’t use the Word to explain to our children what the Lord wants them to do, why they were wrong, and what to do about it, then our reason for any rebuke or correction is simply our personal whim.

What we think is vitally important when using Scripture to correct a child is the spirit in which it is done. If a mom is angry or harsh, then she will undermine anything positive that she would like to accomplish in her disciplining. However, if our spirits are gentle and sweet as we explain to our children that we want to obey the Word because we love Jesus, and we know that His will for our lives is the best way to live, we are building into our children’s lives a reason to obey and a desire to obey.

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). We want our children to see the Word as the direction for their lives, and we want them even to welcome chastening from the Lord. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). We believe that begins with receiving reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness from the Word. A side benefit from regular use of Scripture as we correct our children is that they will memorize verses that have specific application to problem areas in their lives.

In 2 Timothy 3:15 when Paul is talking about Timothy, he says, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” We want for our children to know the Word, and one way for this to happen is by memorizing the Word. Then our children will have a spiritual tool to be able to use in their lives to draw their hearts closer to the Lord Jesus, to help them choose obedience to the Word, and to direct them toward the blessing of others. Next month I plan to conclude the discussion of Scripture memory and move into Bible copying.

Scripture Memory and Bible Copying – Part 1

This morning I was alone driving about thirty minutes to pick up Steve, who was returning a truck we had rented. I was reciting out loud to myself several large sections of Scripture that I have memorized. When I came to Colossians 3:16—”Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom . . .”—I was reminded of two e-mails we had recently received asking us about Scripture memory and Bible copying in our family. Here is what they asked:

“I have noticed a trend your family has that involves Scripture memorization. Do you have any information regarding how one would go about memorizing Scripture? I have always had difficulty in this area and would like to know if there is any specific methodology or steps that you use to accomplish this.” Mom 1

“I was wondering what your Bible copying involves? We were involved with Awanas for about four to five years, but the older my son gets the more he fights with learning the verses in the sections. He does have a lot of trouble keeping things memorized, so I think he gets frustrated with himself and gives up. So I’m looking for some way he can learn to memorize without the pressure, and get him back to being eager to learn more about God.” Mom 2

How can the Word of Christ dwell in me richly if I haven’t memorized it? I read my Bible personally every morning. We are also in the Word daily as a family in the evenings, and Steve reads a chapter of Scripture to me at night. I can think about the Word and meditate on it from those interactions with it, but what is dwelling in me richly is what I have memorized.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalms 119:11). Once again, to have the Word hidden in my heart is going to mean that I have it memorized. It is accurate, and it is true, and it is continually available in my heart to direct me. This is important not only in my life but also in my children’s lives. We want them to have the Word hidden in their hearts, dwelling there richly.

The simplest way our family memorizes Scripture is what I might term the whiteboard-mealtime-grace method. After we say grace before lunch and dinner, we recite a portion of Scripture together before we begin to eat. We have a whiteboard hanging in the dining room where the current Scripture is written down for us to read until it is memorized. The verses on our board now are Matthew 5:3-12. A couple of the previous passages were 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and Galatians 5:22-24.

Just by reading the verses two times a day as our family sits down to meals, we memorize them usually in a few days to weeks. The children learn them before Steve and I do. There is no pressure on anyone, and everyone—even the youngest—will eventually know all the verses on the whiteboard. We leave the set of verses up even after everyone knows them well so they become very ingrained. At that point, the Lord will put a new section of Scripture on Steve’s heart to put on the whiteboard on which we will begin to work.

I believe the key to Scripture memory is having it scheduled every day. That is one reason why our whiteboard-mealtime-grace Scripture method is effective. We work on it twice a day, day after day, and in this case it doesn’t even feel like we are memorizing. For other memorizing, if we will work on it for a set amount of time and do it consistently, we make good memorizing progress.

When our children were younger, I helped them memorize during one-on-one time we would have together. Once at a homeschool convention, we had purchased some books from Scripture Memory Fellowship to help guide me with our preschoolers’ memorizing. Each book had illustrations and a verse in large print. Since the children couldn’t read, I could hold the book open so that they could see the illustration and teach them the verse. Eventually they could say all the verses from the book by me simply flipping the pages so they could see the illustration. When we had completed memorizing all the verses in a particular book, it was with great joy that the child would recite his verses for the family at our family Bible time. We kept our preschoolers memorizing individual verses rather than larger portions of Scripture.

In teaching the preschoolers the verse, I would repeat the whole verse five times through. Then I would take the first phrase and say it five times. I would ask the child to try saying it on his own. If he couldn’t get started, I would say the verse again five times and ask him again. Sometimes I would say the phrase with him or start him off with the first couple of words. We would keep at it through the five to ten minutes that we had set aside for doing memory work.

The next day, I would start by asking the child if he could remember what he had learned the day before. If he remembered it, I would have him repeat it five times for me. If he couldn’t remember it, I would help him get started and see if he could go on by himself. We would work toward the child saying the phrase five times alone. If he couldn’t say any of the verse from the previous day, we would begin again where we had begun the day before.

Once the child had the first phrase down, I would move to the next phrase, saying it five times and seeing if he could say it. If he could, he would repeat it five times. If he couldn’t, I would say it for him again. When he could say the new phrase by himself, I would have him go back to the beginning of the verse, say his first phrase and add the new one on. This would again take practice. We always worked in groupings of five—five times with no mistakes before we moved on to the next step. Once the child has a verse memorized, in addition to learning new verses, we will review the previously-learned verses.

For our children who are older than preschool age, Steve talks with the child, and together they pick out a section of Scripture to memorize. Often it is a whole chapter once they are older. Because I had done Scripture memory with the children before they could read on their own, they learned my method of memorizing that they could utilize, or they could experiment with other ways themselves. When the children were younger, I would be the one to put time into the schedule for them to do Scripture memory. As they have gotten older, Steve has wanted them to choose Scripture memory on their own so they are to work it into their personal time.

Memorizing Scripture is often viewed as a difficult discipline by Christians–one that they would like to do but find themselves avoiding. Our family has discovered that it can be done quite simply by repeating verses when we gather at the table to eat our meals. We also help our pre-readers with their memorizing. If we set aside time to memorize, we will have memorizing success and find that it isn’t as hard as we think. It is difficult only if we haven’t invested the necessary time into it. May we be like the Psalmist and help our children to do this as well: “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalms 119:16). Next month we will look a little more into Scripture memory.

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction” (Proverbs 16:21). This is one of my favorite verses in regards to home schooling and to raising children. It is a verse I need to remind myself of daily. I also have to ask the Lord to help me see the value of pleasant words and to let me be aware of when they can be used. It is easy for me to spot a child’s infraction; that comes naturally. It takes the Lord’s help to be as conscious of when to use those pleasant words.

Pleasant words are appropriate in discipline situations. Sometimes I wonder what our children must think of us when we have our stern face and stern words on. Have you ever watched and listened to another mother in this mode and thought to yourself, “Look how hard and harsh she is!” Would our children have an easier time responding to our discipline if we had the same discipline but a sweet disposition while doing it? This is not the purpose of this Mom’s Corner, though. Rather I want us to consider the value of practicing pleasant words to praise and encourage our children.

Sometimes I am absolutely amazed, at what sounds very “syrupy” sweet to me when I say it, but will bring the biggest, brightest smile to my child. Right now Anna, age six, is diligently working on learning to read and write. When she makes a particular letter well, perhaps a ‘p,’ I will say, “What a great ‘p’ that was, Anna!” Her face immediately lights up with pleasure! I can assure you that there are many, many letters on her page that are not made nicely and even this one I am praising is probably not perfect. I feel certain, though, that she is much more motivated to continue working to make her letters nicely by my “pleasant words” than she would be by my criticism of her poorly formed ones.

When we brought our oldest son, now 22, home to school fifteen years ago, he was struggling with his newly acquired reading skills. I had no experience teaching reading and few resources to draw upon for the remedial help he needed. I decided that I would have him read out loud to me for ten minutes a day. I also purposed to praise him highly for the words he read correctly and to patiently help him sound out the words he struggled with, not allowing any criticism or irritation on my lips as I did so.

Unbelievably to me, within just a few short weeks, his reading skills had improved to where he could read almost anything put in front of him. He no longer dreaded reading time as he had before, but he was actually enjoying the stories he could now read for himself.

Pleasant words promote instruction. Isn’t instruction our goal in home schooling? We want our children to learn to be Christ-like; we want them to develop godly character, and we desire that they excel educationally as much as possible. Scripture says that pleasant words will help us to these goals because they promote instruction. We can say the exact same words with a sweet voice or with a hard voice, pleasant words or harsh words. What will be the outcome of each? We can also use pleasant words or critical words in most situations. Which will promote the instruction that is the prayer of our hearts for our children?

Gratitude comes under the heading of “pleasant words” in my mind. How I delight in expressions of gratefulness to me and how difficult it can be for me to receive criticism. I am finding this is just as true for my children. My seventeen-year-old daughter thrives on praise and gratitude, being highly motivated by it. Our children need to learn to receive criticism with a proper spirit, and I expect they will have plenty of opportunities for just that. I want to push that unnatural tendency in myself, learning to major on gratitude and praise while “minoring” on the reprimands that do come naturally.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3-4). I wonder how much of this meek and quiet spirit is evidenced by our pleasant words. No matter how hard I try for pleasant words, it is a matter of the Lord changing my heart. “. . . for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34).” I must make this heart change issue an area that I am constantly bringing before my Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and petition. Also, I want to not be satisfied with having a spirit that easily criticizes my children but has difficulty praising them. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).” I desire to see these negative heart attitudes as sin, confessing them to my children and to my Lord. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Yes, I have a responsibility to teach and train my children which will involve plenty of opportunities to correct them, but may the joy of my heart be to praise, encourage, and express gratitude to them. May I see the value in these “pleasant words.” I challenge you to evaluate your day-to-day interactions with your children. Are they lop-sided on the critical, hard side or do you find frequent occasions to verbally express your pleasure with those precious children? Pleasant words promote instruction!