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Controlling Apples

By Lori Harris
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #31, 1999.

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Lori Harris


A man cannot rule over a country, unless he can manage a state;
But a man cannot rule over a state, unless he can lead a county,
But a man cannot lead a county, unless he can lead a community;
But a man cannot be head over a community unless he can guide a family;
But a man cannot guide a family, unless he can govern wisely himself.
But a man cannot govern himself unless he has reason;
And a man cannot have a sound mind with reason, unless he is ruled by and obedient to God.

Hugo Grotius 1654

Control? You have to be kidding! It is 3:30 a.m. as I finish this. We bathed and readied 42 chickens for fair yesterday. I did 12 loads of laundry, cleaned the house, shaved two pigs, made a goat parts identification poster, put dinner in the crock pot for tonight, and that is just the start!

"How do you do it?"

That seems to be a standard question from those who look at our family as extraordinary. We look at ourselves and want to know what all the fuss is about. When I think I am a total failure and can't possibly be doing a decent job, someone will comment on how well-behaved my children are or how active or accomplished. They speak of the godliness they see in them. It is nice to know that to others, we aren't quite as bad as we think.

Many days I wake up weary just thinking about what has to be accomplished with my day. From the job of mommy and wife to laundry lady, cook, maid, listener, teacher, volunteer, organizer, taxi driver, political activist, farmer and field hand, I have much more than I can handle. Staying focused and on track is a constant fight.

Parents have a hard time teaching what they haven't established in their own lives. Daily we see that God desires us as parents to refine the trait of self-government in us first so that we might become better examples to our children.

Establishing a pattern for your day helps. I have found that if I am slack in getting up and starting the family off right, they follow the tone that I have set. It is not a pretty sight. If I am nasty, guess what? They are nasty too. Your children will only follow the pattern set before them. James Dobson says values are caught, not taught. To a large part, I agree. If Mom sleeps in and starts her day at noon, her kids will naturally follow suit. If Mom puts prayer and Bible somewhere below academics instead of at the top of the list, so will the kids. The southern saying I grew up with is, "The apple don't fall far from the tree."

One of the first traits we try to establish in our children is Self-Government. Daily we require them to set their realm of authority in order. They are required to come to breakfast with rooms clean, beds made, and bodies clothed for the day (from head to toe - a tall order for some of them!). We try to encourage them to take dominion over what God has entrusted to them and what we feel they are capable of being responsible for. What I expect a 15-year-old to do with his day is not the same as what the 4-year-old should accomplish.

School work doesn't really start until we have had our prayer time. If we ever depart from our family prayer on our knees, together, every day, we always know it. Some member of the family will let everyone else know that our day is going so lousy because "We didn't pray today!"

There are other examples of self-government for the individual child. Our family is involved in church, 4-H, AWANA, school activities, Little League and various other projects. No matter what norm has been established for the children involved, we try to stress to ours that they must be models of Christ's character and self-government and go that extra mile. The standard that is acceptable for the masses is not acceptable for sons and daughters of the King. We try to be available to serve wherever the need will be greatest. That might mean checking the grounds for trash, setting up or breaking down tables or any of the many tasks that would need just a set of hands to accomplish the goal. It always amazes me when people say that they don't feel "called" to do this or that. I think we are "called" just because we claim the name of Christ. We are His hands and His feet and we are "called" to serve.

All of my children have animals they are responsible for. I feel that farm life can be used to build character better than just about anything. Results produced by hard work are a great motivator. I am a stickler for caring for God's creatures, because we learn how to parent without expecting anything in return. Pens need to be cleaned and animals fed and watered. If these small things aren't done, the animal dies. When a child loses something he's responsible for, he starts to understand why he needs to follow through with his daily schedule. He also learns what happens when he does not follow through.

We like to have our breakfast done, kitchen clean, and scripture work going no later that 7:30. Our house is up and moving into the day at an early hour. Animals don't wait!

We have found we can accomplish a lot more work if we use daylight hours. The individual enterprise of the Industrial Revolution set America apart as a nation one hundred years ago. Today we see that communal effort, force, and threat, and not the goal of seeing a job well done, cause most of us to work at a task.

I make my mind accountable
To God in all I see.
I strive to keep a good conscience
That God might govern me.
My thoughts and motives direct me,
To be moral as I sing.
All the actions in my body
Reflect that God is King.

For school time, we have an old camper-trailer-turned-schoolhouse in our driveway. It has most of our school books and is where we go to do our real classroom type work. We have found that if we get out to the schoolhouse and stick with it, the book work is easier to get finished with quickly. When we come in for lunch we are usually finished with the major part of our day. After lunchtime, each child is allowed to finish his individual projects. Computer time doesn't happen until the other school work is finished. If the mandatory schoolwork is not finished there are no outside activities allowed for that child. Sometimes we've missed major events because the schoolwork hasn't been finished first.

The law in our house may differ from child to child on some issues but it will include duties and chores and school work. If the rules have not been followed, the consequences will follow. Don't be afraid to have rules and then follow through with consequences. I fear children who know that Mom is a pushover. I fear the judgment of God on parents who can't say no to a child's demands and wants.

Internal: God's law and love, accepted and obeyed by the individual - the inward man.

External: Christian self-government is revealed in the individual's heart, and governs walk, appearance, and dominion.

Does your child know Christ? Does he claim to be a Christian? The control of the home under the headship of Christ will run so much more smoothly if we have children with a conscience governed by God. We are God's representatives to our children. We don't want them to make our mistakes. Learn to model repentance to your children. Be quick to deal with sin in your own life and you will see your children do the same.

Successful homeschooling does not depend on having the right books, doing it a certain way, or belonging to that awesome support group. It depends on knowing the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Do a word study on "control" for yourself. Place your control under His control and discover the power of God. God's power can give strength and courage to the weak, organization to the unorganized, and creativity to those without a clue!

When the apples have all fallen from the tree, may they bear the imprint of the One who made them. Isn't that really the goal of staying in control?

We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government: upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, control ourselves, and sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.

James Madison


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