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Practical Homeschooling® :

Sow What? Seeds That Yield a Whole Mind

By Clay and Sally Clarkson
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #29, 1999.

How to sow the seeds of whole-mindedness and maturity in your children.
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Clay and Sally Clarkson

We've seeded a lawn only once. It was a disaster. Yes, some grass did come in, but with it came some kind of alien weed we'd never seen before, or since - long, thick, moist fingers of leafy cellulose reaching out like tentacles from the hundreds of "octopus" weeds that invaded our turf. We did not sow good seed.

In Bible times, everybody probably sowed seeds at one time or another. Perhaps that's why God has used it as a metaphor so often in his word. It takes only one experience of sowing and reaping for anyone to understand the basic biblical principle, "Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

When you hear those words, you probably tend to reduce them to an expression of sin and judgment, righteousness and reward. But God is not so mundane. Do a quick concordance study on the word "sow" and its derivatives and you will be amazed at the depth and breadth of meaning that God reaps from this metaphor of life. Our own study has us looking at what we're sowing in the minds and hearts of our children.

As we wrap up the final "school year" of the second millennium and look at the culture around us, it brings to mind the words of Isaiah as he evaluates the condition of the rebellious people of Judah: "Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted." They had sown the wrong seed for too long, and they were reaping its effects in their minds and hearts. That certainly fits our times, too.

Our overriding goal as parents is to be sure we sow good seeds in our children's minds and hearts, in order to reap the harvest of maturity. Interestingly, the idea behind the word maturity in the New Testament is "wholeness." Into a world of corrupted minds and hearts, we want to send "whole-minded" and "wholehearted" people who can show others the way to God.

We'll take up the matter of sowing seeds in the heart for living for God next time, but for now let's look at the seeds we are sowing in our children's minds for learning for God. After 10 years of homeschooling, we can see more clearly now what we believe is "bad seed" in the process of helping our children learn and grow mentally, and what is "good seed."

Bad Seed

Bad seed can often look like good seed (weed seeds look much the same as grass seeds). But if you learn to spot it, you can keep it from taking root. There are others, but these are a few of the bad seeds we've learned to avoid.

Don't sow the seed of too high expectations. The world may value high performance, but you risk reaping lack of confidence, stress, or the attitude "I just can't please my parents, so why try?" There is nothing to be gained in pressing and stressing a child to do more, achieve more, learn more.

Don't sow the seed of strictness and harshness. You may think you need to be hard on your children if they're ever going to learn anything, but you risk reaping resentment and resistance. Learning should not be a punishment, but a pleasurable pursuit.

Don't sow the seed of tediousness. It's easy to become dependent upon formal curricula, but you'll risk reaping boredom and a distaste for learning. Too many workbooks, textbooks, and curricula are artificial means of learning that reduce the natural process God intended to an unnatural, mind-numbing tedium. There is a better way!

Good Seed

Of course, we unintentionally sow some of that bad seed in our children's minds. We all do, no matter how careful we try to be. But bad seed can be overcome by good seed, like the alien octopus weeds in our lawn that were eventually overtaken by the good grass. The secret is to sow as much good seed as you possibly can, and then some. Here are a few good seeds to sow.

Sow the seed of a love of books. No other seed you sow will produce a more bountiful harvest in your children's minds than this one. If they love books, they will read; and if they read, they will learn. Our library is overflowing, we read everyday as a family, we talk about books, we admire books, and we enjoy books. If you read, they will grow.

Sow the seed of self-confidence. It is so easy to make your children intellectually dependent and mentally lazy. We are learning more and more to sow the seed of "you can do that," and to choose learning methods that encourage self-directed study. The more they believe that you believe they can do, the more they'll believe they can do.

Sow the seed of curiosity. At its purest, true learning is a curious mind seeking out knowledge and understanding. Listen carefully to hear what your children are curious about, and then lead them on the road of discovery. Fill your home with plenty of food for curious minds.

Sow the seed of creativity. Do not allow the words "I'm just not creative" to become a part of any child's vocabulary. Look for ways to release the unique creative nature in each individual child, whether it be through music, art, physical ability, design, building, or whatever. Fill your home with tools of creativity and allow them to be freely used.

Sow the seed of mental appetites. Everything in our culture appeals to your child's lower appetites. We work hard to limit any influence that stimulates an appetite for the "twaddle" of life, and to train their mental appetites for music, art and writing that is beautiful, noble and great.

Sow what? Sow the good seed. The reality is that you really have only one opportunity to sow the kind of good seed into your children that will reap a whole mind. That opportunity is now, in the planting season between the ages of about 4 and 14. If you sow the good seed, you will reap the harvest you long to see - a child who grows up to become a thoughtful, mature adult.

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