Paideia Conversations, Episode 19

In this episode of Paideia Conversations, Melissa Cummings from Paideia Northwest is joined by Kristen Kill, lately of Portland, OR to talk about the wonder, wisdom, and worship of poetry. Really, it was just a fun conversation about all things beauty, poetry, and language… we kept chatting, because it felt like there was so much to say! Find out what Kristen loves about poetry reading & writing, who some of her favorite poets are, and how she incorporates poetry in her own Christian walk of faith. This is a peek into the Paideia Northwest bonus event on November 4th, where Kristen will come talk to us about the intersection of wonder, wisdom, and worship in the art of poetry… and maybe even help us with a poetry-writing exercise while she’s at it.

Links and Resources

Finding Selah by Kristen Kill

Sally Clarkson

This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Stuart Townend

Transcript

Melissa: Hello and welcome to Paideia Conversations where we dialogue about all things paideia. I am your host, Melissa Cummings, from Paideia Northwest. This is where you can listen in as Christian mamas discuss our purpose to raise our children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord – His paideia.
Joining me today for this paideia conversation is Kristen Kill.

Mindful by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Melissa:

Kristen:

How Deep the Father’s Love. Text by Stuart Townend, 1995

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more encouragement and conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for encouragement and ideas about raising your children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord. Please join me next time for another paideia conversation. And in the meantime, peace be with you.

Goodies for the conference!

I love curating lovely things to bring joy. Like curating a speaker panel that will encourage, exhort, challenge, & uplift all the women attending a Paideia Northwest conference. Also, like curating a small vendor hall with things that will delight, bless, and assist those in attendance or their families. And not least of all, I do love curating fun goodies to coordinate with each year’s theme. Pens, stickers, give away items, tees, and even ceramic coffee mugs this year!

You’ll have to wait to see the little freebies in your swag bag at the event itself… but if you want to sport this year’s limited print-run Paideia tee or sip from one of the three fun mugs… you’ll have to order your own! These will only be available to order for a limited time… so hurry! Order now, and pick up at the conference on November 5th.

T-SHIRT for 2022 will be a Sunset colored crew neck soft Bella tee, with this black line image on the back. $18 each, unisex sizing XS-XL.

Three limited-run ceramic mugs to choose from: red, black, white. Each one is 13oz speckled, camp style mug that fits comfortably in a mama’s hand. These mugs are $14 each.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 18

The last of our three main speakers for this year’s Paideia Northwest conference joins us for this conversation, continuing to ponder the themes of wonder, wisdom, and worship. As a photography journalist, homeschooling mama of ten, and recent co-author of the book Gather, Heather Tully is a font of encouragement and grace on these topics! She shares some of her own favorite bits about educating her kids at home, focusing primarily on relationships – individual relationships with God, relationships with one another, and corporately together as a family having a relationship with God and neighbors. What a beautiful tapestry! Heather also gives some of the inside scoop on the backstory from the book, Gather – what it was like to photograph the Gathering times of nine different families, traveling around the country to see the Lord at work in such a variety of different homes, and she even throws a nod to conversations she and I had as we daydreamed about Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast collaborating… and how this year’s own conference theme ended up as the subtitle of her beautiful new book. If you have a rocking chair on a porch, if there’s a summer breeze, and if you can top off a cup of coffee with a healthy splash of cream, then you will not want to miss joining in on this latest Paideia Conversation.

Links and Resources

Heather Tully, photography & personal website

Gather by Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully

Psalm 77:11, 14

Be Thou My Vision

Psalm 103

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

When Strivings Cease by Ruth Chou Simons

Transcript

Melissa: Hello and welcome to Paideia Conversations where we dialogue about all things paideia. I am your host, Melissa Cummings, from Paideia Northwest. This is where you can listen in as Christian mamas discuss our purpose to raise our children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord – His paideia.
Joining me today for this paideia conversation is Heather Tully. Heather is a homeschooling mama of ten, from the South – in fact, she helped start Paideia Southeast down in Georgia, and she also recently published her first book alongside Pam Barnhill. The book is called Gather. And we get to welcome Heather to the Paideia Northwest conference this year to share with us her thoughts and experiences about wonder, wisdom, and worship, particularly seeing wonder as a mama. So I’m really looking forward to that, I can’t wait for the conference this year! I guess that’s normal for me, [laughter] but I’m really excited to introduce Heather to you today.

From Gather by Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully.

You, dear mama, are a wonder-maker! I know because I’ve seen it.
First, before you try to create wonder, I want you to simply behold it. Behold the wonder, the wisdom, and the worship of gathering with your children. The word “behold” comes from an old English word, bihaldan, from “bi” (thoroughly) plus “haldan” (to hold). You’re going to have to work at grasping, holding on, so you can thoroughly see the beauty in gathering with your children. You’re going to have to stop worrying (aren’t we supposed to do that anyway?), and simply look around you. And oh! when you do, seeing is inspirational.
Have you ever stopped to consider the atmosphere of your home? In order to waltz in wonder, we want a tone of curiosity about and fascination with what God is doing in His creation. We want an attitude of reverence and humility as we seek to grow in knowledge. We want a tone of peace so we can take time to marvel. Atmosphere doesn’t just happen, it’s made up of the things we do as well as the grace of God. To have curiosity, we must actively learn. To grow in reverence, we need a real sense of our smallness and God’s greatness. To have peace, we need a schedule that’s not rushed. To grow in humility, we must first repent of wrong attitudes and behavior.
To order our affections rightly, and engage in acts of worship, we need to build relationships. We were created to know God and have fellowship with Him. In the garden before the Fall, that fellowship was perfect. Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. Sadly, sin brought brokenness to that harmony. Adam and Eve left the garden. Only in Christ is fellowship with God restored. His perfect life and atoning death on the cross paid the penalty for our sin. The gift of fellowship is for all those who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Glory, hallelujah!
We were created for living relationships. So gather your children and commune with your Savior together. Feast on His Word and wonder at His works by discovering ideas.

Melissa: hey, I’m so excited to have Heather Tully with me today! I have not yet gotten to hug her in person, but she’s one of my favorite people to chat with on Voxer and to engage with on Instagram. So I’m really excited to introduce my friend Heather. Hey Heather, thanks for joining me today.

Heather: hey, Melissa.

Melissa: so could you just, please briefly introduce yourself and tell me what you love about educating your kids for Christ?

Heather: thanks, Melissa, for having me on your podcast. So I am Heather, I am wife to Eric – we’ll be married twenty-three years in September, we have ten children ages twenty-two to almost-five.

Melissa: aww.

Heather: three high school graduates, one of those is done with college, and the two boys are in college as I speak. This year, I’ve got six homeschool students with a toddler in tow who is very eager. He’s five, so this is his last year. But I’m having a hard time convincing him [laughter] that he should wait and start next year. So he’s very much a part of much of what we do in our homeschool day, especially our gathering time.

Melissa: mhmm.

Heather: so we’ve always homeschooled, so this is my sixteenth year homeschooling, though I like to tell people it’s really the nineteenth because I began with a gather time with my two children when Patricia was three. So I’m really grateful for that foundation. We live in Georgia, we enjoy the sunshine of Georgia even though we are originally from the north.

Melissa: yeah, I started doing my version of Morning Time back when I just had one little guy as well, so it was that same kind of thing. Just laying a foundation. I don’t even think I knew that I was laying a foundation, because I sort of had a vision of what I was going to build, and yet being a first time mom… second generation homeschooler, but first time mom… it was all just a little bit of making it up as I went along. And, I mean, we had internet but I didn’t have social media, and a lot of the people that I sort of link elbows with now weren’t, like they didn’t have books yet. [laughter] So yeah, same, same kind of thing, setting that foundation from the getgo. So that’s awesome.

Heather: I love educating my kids because I get to be with them. I love building those relationships and getting to walk alongside them and teach them about the Lord and integrate that into all of life. And that’s sometimes the hardest thing to do, living alongside each other, day in day out…

Melissa: mhmm.

Heather: you know, twenty-four-seven when they’re younger, but it’s also such a great privilege. And to see their relationships grow with their Savior and also with each other. I love learning alongside them. We’re not just educating our kids: us mamas get to be a part of that journey. And I am learning these things often for the first time. I’m reading aloud books that I never read before or it’s been a long time, and so that’s a great joy. So I love the relationship side of homeschooling, and I love training them to seek the Lord in all things, to give God praise and honor and glory, and then I love learning myself.

Melissa: that is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it? I know a lot of people talk about redeeming their own education, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like I need to redeem my education… I even have the privilege of being homeschooled and, by one of those pioneers back in the eighties, and I don’t feel like I need to redeem anything. But I get to fatten it up. And just continue. It’s that lifelong learning process, and I just, I just love it to pieces. So I’m with you. And especially as Christian mamas! We are not just homeschooling our kids because we want to keep them home whether it’s to… I mean, there’s so many reasons people decide to homeschool… but one of the main things is because we want to have them just saturated in Christian culture and in a family and a home that is seeking the face of Christ and sitting at His feet. And it’s such a privilege to do that alongside them. So yes, I’m with you. [laughter]

Heather: so in addition to being a homeschool mama, which I absolutely love, I’m also a documentary photographer. So I love documenting life as it is. So don’t clean up the room [laughter], don’t put on special clothes, I want to remember the moments that made up our day to day life. And I want to remember the stories behind that. And so I started to take photos of my own family, just capturing ordinary moments, and learning to see the beauty in those moments, learning to wonder at God’s amazing providence and goodness to us. And so that then led me to grow a little bit in my skill, and I love when I get to now document other families’ lives. And so that’s a, that’s a big passion for me. I, in addition to taking those document pictures, I also write narratives and what was happening in the background or what that picture’s about for my children. And I make it into a book each day, or each year. And so it ends up being a way to, not just remember what’s going on, but often when I have something on my heart that I want to say to my children, I’m drawn to picking up my camera to capture it and then write about it to them. And so I love doing that. I love having my camera with me. I’ll probably have it with me at the conference.

Melissa: [laughter] yay!

Heather: it’s pretty rare when I don’t have my camera with me. It tends to go where I go. So that’s a big, that’s a big passion of mine.

Melissa: yeah, that makes sense.

Heather: the last few years I’ve really been meditating on the word “wonder.” It’s, I think, probably because I do documentary photography, it’s something I’ve been thinking on a lot in our family. And then it led me to then start a Charlotte Mason local community, and I called it the Wonder Group.

Melissa: mhmm.

Heather: and we have a co op that meets once a week, and then we have nature walks with whole families twice a month, and I wanted the children to wonder and be in awe of God’s creation, and then His works and things like history and art and literature and music. And so I think that’s the word that I’ve been chewing on quite a bit. What does it mean to wonder? Who are we wondering towards?

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: and then, what is the fruit of that wonder? So I mean- wonder, wisdom, worship, like I said, I think they all are tied together. It’s a circle that goes around and around. It’s a rope that I think binds and builds on each other.

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: but I think wonder has been the word that I’ve been drawn to. And maybe also, because as a mama who’s very busy with lots of little, I found myself needing to wonder.

Melissa: hmm.

Heather: to not get bogged down in the ordinary, what can sometimes feel mundane…

Melissa: right.

Heather: repetitiveness of being a mom who’s taking care of children. And so I found myself needing to be in awe [laughter] and to smile more and rejoice. And so when I started to pick up my camera a little bit more purposely, that helped me to see and notice and to wonder in our own family.

Melissa: I love that. Picking it up, looking through that lens with wonder and… Oh, so good. Now, I’m really excited that I get to hug you this year after, you know, being friends long distance for a while that’s going to be a real treat. So please give us a little, a little snippet, tidbit, some kind of quick idea of what you plan to bring to the conversation, to the table at the Paideia Northwest conference.

Heather: I’m super excited about the Paideia Northwest conference, and especially getting to meet you, Melissa, in person.

Melissa: yay!

Heather: and not just chat on Voxer and through Instagram, but getting to see you and give you a big hug. So my talk this year is called Wonder Through a Mama’s Lens.

Melissa: yes!

Heather: and I’m gonna focus mostly on how do we bring wonder into the atmosphere of our home. But also how wonder then leads to wisdom, and how wonder then leads us to worship. And I’m then thinking a lot on Psalm 77. There’s a few different verses here. I’ll start with verse eleven. It says, “I will remember the works of the Lord. Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” And then in verse fourteen. “You are the God who does wonders, You have declared Your strength among the peoples.”

Melissa: so good!

Heather: and I want to flesh that out. How do we remember His works? And are we wondering, are we so caught up in the busyness of the day that we are forgetting to be in awe of the Lord?

Melissa: mhmm.

Heather: and then how is that wonder connected to growing in wisdom and walking in the statutes of the Lord? And then does that wonder lead us to praise, to worship Him? So I’m really grateful for that opportunity. It’s been really encouraging for my own life to think and to meditate and to pray over these things, and I’m excited to get to share with other mamas.

Melissa: oh, that sounds so good! Okay, so you know I love the Psalms to begin with. And, actually I think… I mean, there’s so many I love… but Psalm 77 is definitely, it’s definitely up there! So I… actually one of the reasons that I love doing these pre-registration, like, podcast interviews, is because I get ideas [laughter] from the rest of you. So I don’t feel like I’m just having to scrape up my own ideas, I get to, yeah, just sort of take snippets from each of you. So I think we’re gonna see some Psalm 77 [laughter] at the conference itself. I think that’s just perfect. So thank you for that. Now, if you were to pick one or two of the words: wonder, wisdom, worship… could you share how they’re presented or prioritized in your home? What, what is that like?

Heather: I think when we are taking the time to wonder at God’s creation or wonder at God’s good work in our lives, or in the lives of our children, it leads us to praise Him.

Melissa: mhmm.

Heather: it leads us to seek Him. Who is this God who made this amazing creation? And then hopefully that’s driving us to His Word, which is the source of wisdom.

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: so I think wonder, wisdom, worship is very much, it’s almost like a cord. And it’s tied together, and they strengthen one another. And that pausing to wonder, I then want to worship Him in praise, and I want to grow in wisdom and learning more about Him. I think then I think leads me to be in awe and to be in a state of wonder again. So it’s kind of like a circle in my mind that’s, just goes round and round. And I think all of those things are important. We need to wonder and stand in awe before the God of truth, and that truth is found in the wisdom of His Word, and then that needs to lead us to worship.

Melissa: mmm, mhmm. All of that. Because we don’t start at wonder and go through wisdom just to attain true worship, right? They’re, they’re all, you know, you said it’s like a circle. It is. It’s cyclical, it’s a cord. I really like that. It’s tied together. I almost think of it as a knot, when you said a cord, I think of it as a knot. Where it’s not just a circle, they all influence each other and you just described that really well. I love that. So I’m gonna be thinking about that cord. How could I bring that cord into the [laughter] into the conference? Yeah, so awesome.

Melissa: Okay, so. Tell me about your book, Gather. It was released earlier this year, and so I want to know… where did that idea come from? What was that process like? And, I don’t know, what was your favorite part of creating Gather? It was when you and I were dreaming up this actual conference that the subtitle kind of stuck for you because we were talking about wonder, wisdom, and worship, and how I wanted to do this conference. And we were daydreaming together or scheming or planning [laughter] across the country. I remember I was getting steps and, while my kids were at piano lessons, I would walk in circles getting steps. And we would be chatting on Voxer about this. So anyway, I am just eager. Tell us, tell us about Gather.

Heather: so, Gather: exploring the wonder, wisdom, and worship of learning at home is a book that I got to write with Pam Barnhill, who’s a good friend. And I also took most of the photos that you’ll see in the book. So Gather gives mamas an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of nine homeschool families. Pam and I are in the book, and then there’s seven other families, including one mama who is done with her homeschool journey, Cindy Rollins, and she shows us what it means to gather when you’re by yourself at the end of all those homeschooling years.

Melissa: I love it.

Heather: so the idea of Gather came about because often Pam and I are asked, you know, what does it look like? I get the idea of a Morning Time or gathering with my children but I can’t see it. And I’ve had several mamas in my home throughout the years to observe our gathering time, and so I wanted to share that in a book format. Because I can’t have everybody over. So I always love that opportunity to invite somebody into our home and, and get to know them. And when I talked with Pam about it, she was really excited and so it shares what gathering can look like. But then it also goes through and explores the ideas of, what does it mean to wonder with our children? What does it mean to want to share wisdom and worship with our children in gathering with them? What do we do on those days when it’s difficult? How do we get a teenager [laughter] to have a conversation with us? And then we get really practical at the end of the book, and we share ideas, share some of our favorite resources for things like nature study, geography, grammar, artist and composer studies. So I like that practical part. And the book ends with us asking those nine families some questions so that we can learn directly from them.

Melissa: mhmm.

Heather: so it’s, it’s a, it was a joy to be a part of. I got to travel to these different families, spend a few days with them or an afternoon with them, and I gleaned just as much, if not more [laughter] than what I put in the book. I came back not just with ideas of what I could do in my Gather, but I came back so encouraged. I saw these mamas pouring into the lives of their children, loving on them, seeking the Lord for strength, and it just encouraged me to do the same. And it’s our hope that our book Gather can do that for you.

Melissa: I think that’s one of the things that’s so sweet about it, is that you not only wrote it and photographed and created it in community, but the way that it’s presented, the way the stories are shared, and the different families are just sort of sprinkled throughout – it’s, it’s very obvious that it was community-minded. And that’s kind of a unique thing when it comes to creating a book. Usually you know, you can tell, oh the book is written by one person, or [laughter]… because it was written by two people but representing nine… I don’t know, it just, it is. It’s just really encouraging. So I love that.

Heather: I do think that’s my favorite part of the Gather, is the inspiration. It’s very real.

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: so when you see the book, you’ll see me in pj’s [laughter] in some of those photos, you see toddlers crying. It, it’s a… I love the realness because gathering with our children isn’t always what a lot of us call “picture perfect.”

Melissa: right.

Heather: we live in real homes that are messy, we have kids that have needs, and we wanted to share that. But we also wanted mamas to see that that realness is special and beautiful. And so, I love how real Gather is, because I know doing this day in and day out for nineteen years, with another I think fourteen years ahead of me by God’s grace…

Melissa: wow.

Heather: and then I get to do it by myself. So really, a lifetime ahead of me. But it has to be real to be consistent with it.

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: and so, I’m grateful that the book does that.

Melissa: yeah. I think recognizing that being real and not having to have it be “picture perfect” like you said, makes it easier to be consistent, and being consistent also helps it be more real. It’s not like we’re putting it on or faking. It’s, it becomes natural, it becomes part of our family rhythm, our routine. It becomes, really, just central to… well, for my family anyway… it’s central to what our family culture is! I just can’t imagine not doing it. It is, it is real, it is not picture perfect. Toddlers do cry in the back, and I only have one teenager so far, but you know, it’s, it’s different. It’s just a beautiful gift. And it is, it’s inspiring to know that other people are out there doing the same thing.

Heather: so the subtitle’s fun.

Melissa: yeah!

Heather: Melissa and I got to chat often over Voxer because we haven’t had the opportunity to meet each other in person…

Melissa: not yet! [laughter]

Heather: and I think it was one summer, was it last summer?

Melissa: last summer… no, it was before that. It was, it was in winter because Paideia Southeast launched at the end of last summer. And so it was a solid five or six months before that that we were talking about this, so yeah. I think it was, it was like February of 2021. [laughter]

Heather: but we were chatting about these ideas of, what does it mean to wonder and seek wisdom? How do we worship with our children right in our home during the week in between those corporate times of worship on the Lord’s Day?

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: and so we were, you know, throwing ideas out, back and forth. I was really drawn to the word wonder. And I think Melissa shared, you, you shared some about your conference.

Melissa: mhmm.

Heather: and I knew, I was like, that’s it. That is what I want to share in our Gather book! So I think Pam and I came to you and was like, can we use this for a subtitle? [laughter] And you were so gracious. You were like, go for it. And you were so excited for us…

Melissa: yes!

Heather: and that meant so much. When we were in the midst of that project. With traveling for photos and with writing sessions. To have friends praying for us was such an encouragement and it definitely, we could feel the Lord using those prayers.

Melissa: so many prayers!

Heather: so yeah. We should, we should give a nod to you, Melissa, it was… it was through those conversations, which is just awesome. I’m so grateful for the community of believers and for the friendship that we can have from one continent… or I guess we’re on the same continent… from one part…

Melissa: corner, yeah?

Heather: of the continent to the other part. It’s, it’s one of the joys of living in this era. There can be problems with technology, but it can also be a blessing.

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: and I’ve been encouraged to wonder, and to seek wisdom, and to worship with my children through our conversations together.

Melissa: aww, amen.

Melissa: okay, so just for fun… because I like to, I like to have some fun things. [laughter] I mean, we’re looking forward to all this serious stuff and deep encouragement, but at the same time, we also like to have fun, right? So what is your current favorite drink? And maybe, maybe it’s different season by season, or… but what’s your current favorite, Heather?

Heather: okay, favorite drink?

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: always, always coffee.

Melissa: always! [laughter]

Heather: always! [laughter] We drink a lot of coffee here with college students at home.

Melissa: oh, yeah. Yeah.

Heather: and also my husband and I because there’s a lot of kids and we’re busy. So favorite coffee drink is coffee with cream.

Melissa: okay, cream.

Heather: it’s gotta have cream or I don’t want to drink it.

Melissa: okay, duly noted. [laughter] I’ll make sure we have cream when you come here. Now, what’s… this one might be a little more complicated… what is a hymn, a favorite hymn, that you’re loving? Could be one that you’ve loved a long time, one that you’re loving currently… give me a, give me a hymn.

Heather: so picking a favorite hymn is a little bit hard! I almost feel like…

Melissa: I know.

Heather: you’re asking me to pick who is my favorite child!

Melissa: sorry. [laughter]

Heather: so, favorite hymn… I immediately thought of Be Thou My Vision. That was the hymn that was in our wedding ceremony.

Melissa: aww.

Heather: and we’ve prayed that it is what we’re seeking as a couple, and as a family.

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: so I immediately thought of Psalm… I’m sorry, of Be Thou My Vision.

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: but then I also thought of Psalm 103. Which is a Psalm that my Charlotte Mason Wonder Study group is gonna be singing this year and also memorizing. And so, through the years we’ve come to love singing the Psalms.

Melissa: yay, me too!

Heather: so Be Thou My Vision, Psalm 103, and then if I can throw one more in there, because you can’t just pick one…

Melissa: oh, sure! [laughter]

Heather: O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.

Melissa: mmm.

Heather: there’s something to wonder at, right?

Melissa: yeah.

Heather: so the deep love of our Savior and how it washes over us and it lifts us up. It’s a favorite one of mine to sing in the morning cuz it just kind of gets me going. The tempo. So, I couldn’t just pick one favorite hymn.

Melissa: well okay, [laughter] I guess I forgive you. Hymns and Psalms… I can’t choose favorites either. And I can never get enough. So, awesome. This is, I don’t know, the way that you share all of your latest reads on Instagram… I always feel like, wow, you get so much reading done! I don’t know how you do it. You must be a lot faster than I am. So I feel like this is a little bit of a dangerous question. But you are an excellent person for suggestions and resources, so tell me what have you been reading lately?

Heather: what have I been reading lately? I do a lot of reading for my children’s educations, so we call it prereading, and I try to read a little bit ahead of them, take some commonplace notes, so that I can be a part of the conversations when they come to narrate to me. But my own personal reading, I have been reading When Strivings Cease.

Melissa: oooh.

Heather: and that has been just, really sweet, short devotional for me to think about, and… am I striving for the Lord’s glory? Or am I striving in myself because I think I need to be made worthy? And she’s just pointing out that we don’t have to strive that way. We can cease from that kind of striving.

Melissa: mmm, amen.

Heather: because we’re worthy in Christ.

Melissa: mhmm, in Christ.

Heather: so it’s really just been encouraging just to meditate a few days a week on that and think through that book.

Melissa: oh, I love it, I’ll have to look that up. I’m so excited that we get to have you come be here for the Paideia Northwest conference, and we will get to chat about all of these things in person! And of course Pam Barnhill, who co-wrote Gather with you, she’ll be here, and I just think it’s gonna be a really, really good time. So I’m so grateful you took the time to visit with me and to chat about all these things. I can’t believe registration is about to open! I don’t know, I should start a weekly countdown… how many weeks is it until Paideia Northwest? Oh it’s coming soon! So all right, well, thanks, Heather so much.

Heather: thanks, Melissa, for having me on. And I can’t wait to give you a hug in November! And see all the other ladies that join us at the conference. It’s gonna be so much fun.

Melissa: it is. Thanks for being with us today. We’ll see you soon!

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus. Text by Samuel Trevor Francis, 1875.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward,
to Thy glorious rest above.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Spread His praise from shore to shore;
how He loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, nevermore;
how He watches o’er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watcheth o’er them from the throne.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Love of every love the best:
’tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
‘Tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to Thee.

Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more encouragement and conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for encouragement and ideas about raising your children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord. Please join me next time for another paideia conversation. And in the meantime, peace be with you.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 17

We are one day closer to the 2022 conference brought to you by Paideia Northwest, and in this episode of Paideia Conversations, we are joined by author, blogger, speaker, and podcaster Pam Barnhill to chat about wonder, wisdom, and worship – and how they work with one another, challenge us, bless us, and equip us… especially for those of us who are homeschooling moms trying to balance all the housework, homework, academics, and attitudes day by day. Pam’s contagious laughter is sprinkled throughout, and this is a conversation you won’t want to miss. Pop open a bottle of ginger kombucha, pop in your earbuds, and come chat with us!

Links and Resources

Better Together by Pam Barnhill

Gather by Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully

Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill

Your Morning Basket website

Your Morning Basket podcast

Cindy Rollins, Morning Time for Moms

Amy Sloan, Humility and Doxology

Brandy Vencel, Afterthoughts

Mystie Winckler, Simply Convivial

Dawn Garrett, Lady Dusk

Scholé Sisters

Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

Gingerberry kombucha

How Great Thou Art hymn

5×5 Reading Challenge

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Publix fried chicken

Transcript

Melissa: Hello and welcome to Paideia Conversations where we dialogue about all things paideia. I am your host, Melissa Cummings, from Paideia Northwest. This is where you can listen in as Christian mamas discuss our purpose to raise our children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord – His paideia.
Joining me today for this paideia conversation is Pam Barnhill from Your Morning Basket. She is the author of Better Together as well as the new book Gather, and a neat book for homeschooling moms called Plan Your Year. She’s going to be one of the speakers at this year’s Paideia Northwest conference, Wonder Wisdom Worship. In fact, she is the keynote speaker, so I’m very excited to introduce her to you today, and we invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.

From Gather: exploring the wonder, wisdom, and worship of learning at home by Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully.

When we think about creating wonder in our homeschools, it can seem like an insurmountable task. How am I supposed to keep up with the laundry, deal with my children’s attitudes, and still have children who are “feeling surprise mingled with admiration”? Come on! There’s only so much one woman can do in a day! When I start to think of wonder as a verb, though, that is when the idea starts to seem a little more doable. The wonder we seek in our Gathering time is that desire or spirit of curiosity. This is something we can model for our children on all but the worst of days. When we realize that wonder doesn’t have to be a big event, but can instead be a small moment, it becomes even more accessible. Small bits of curiosity practiced throughout a childhood add up to a life filled with wonder.

These few minutes of shared delight at the beginning of our school day builds a habit of laughter and enjoyment that we hold onto as the day and the checklist grow long. We fill our cups first so we can pour out goodwill towards each other the rest of the day. The next day, we will begin by filling our cups again.

Gathering helps us to order our affections rightly. Saint Augustine’s philosophy of ordo amoris, or the order of loves, is about loving God first and most in our lives. When we do this, we love everything else rightly under that supreme love. Satisfaction comes from the right ordering of loves. It eliminates complaints and quarrelsomeness, and it’s a big part of what educating our children is about. So if teaching our children to know God is our primary job as parents, how does Gathering time help with that? It helps by placing our focus on truth, goodness, and beauty.

Our aim is to teach our children to know and love God. We teach this in part by exposing them to all the beautiful and good things He has made. But what if our children do not like those things? They aren’t interested. They find them boring. Do we stop? No! Instead, we expose them to more. It is only by learning to appreciate God’s creation that we succeed in ordo amoris. And it is only by making God being central in our affections that we can enjoy these things properly. Once God is seated in His rightful place in our affections, our love for Him will sanctify our hearts and passions, leading us to value the things of this world appropriately.

Melissa: all right, so everybody probably knows who you are, more or less, but just for the fun of it…

Pam: oh, no.

Melissa: [laughter] well they know you through Scholé Sisters, because…

Pam: well that’s true.

Melissa: we have Scholé Sisters with us every year. But if you could just briefly introduce yourself, as well as tell me something you love about educating your kids for Christ.

Pam: so my name is Pam Barnhill. I am obviously a homeschool mom of, gosh, my daughter, it’s her senior year this year. And I haven’t said that out loud too much, because I am totally unprepared for this. And it’s not that I’m unprepared for, like, it, it’s not like, oh I’m worried about the transcript. I just don’t want her to leave. Is that bad? [laughter] That I don’t want her to leave our home?

Melissa: I think that’s a good testimony.

Pam: yeah. We’ve been homeschooling since the very beginning, ever since she was a little preschooler. We probably started way too early. And I have three kids: seventeen, fifteen, and twelve soon to be thirteen. So we almost have three teenagers in the house. I’ve been married to my husband Matt for twenty-eight years.

Melissa: congrats!

Pam: he will tell you it feels like a million. I don’t know why he says that. [laughter] And yeah, I’m a former… I like to say recovering public school teacher. And yeah, so that’s us. And one of my favorite things. You know, I’m gonna probably talk about this a lot during this conversation, but it absolutely is Morning Time, and the time that we spend together as a family every single day. It what, it’s what keeps me from burning out. It what, it’s what keeps me learning. Like I have learned far more from educating my kids at home than I ever learned during my own years at school. And it’s, despite the ups and downs and the ins and outs and the tough times, and the “he touched me,” and the “would you make him quit” and all that stuff. It’s the part that, that just brings the most joy to my day.

Melissa: yeah. Yeah, I love that. So that is something that you’re going to be talking about… I mean, you talk about… you write about it, you blog about it, you do how many podcasts about it?

Pam: just two, only two.

Melissa: just two?

Pam: so one is about, yeah, one… Your Morning Basket is all about Morning Time. And we have over a hundred episodes. Which if you had said to me, goodness, four or five years ago when we started it now, that we would have over a hundred episodes just about morning time, I would not have believed you. [laughter] And then the other little podcast I do is the Ten Minutes to a Better Homeschool podcast. So it can be about anything homeschool related.

Melissa: okay. Okay. I feel like your name… Cindy Rollins was kind of like this as well. You know, your name is associated with that idea of Morning Time. Is it Amy Sloan that says if Cindy Rollins is the mama of Morning Time, then you’re the auntie or the big sister?

Pam: the big sister, yeah.

Melissa: the big sister of Morning Time.

Pam: yeah. But you know what, Cindy was my mentor when it came to Morning Time. But also Brandy Vencel and Mystie Winckler were very much my mentors as well when I first started it. And then, I didn’t know, she didn’t really help me beforehand, but Dawn Garrett started working with me fairly early on in the process of… I’d only been doing Morning Time maybe two to three years before she started working with me. And so coming alongside her. So I have… Cindy started it all, but I have so many wonderful mentors about Morning Time.

Melissa: yeah.

Pam: yeah. Love it.

Melissa: yeah, well I kind of feel like that’s where Scholé Sisters has been such a blessing too. That idea of “find your sisters” – and it sounds like that’s what you’ve done in your own experiences. You’re not just creating this on your own. You’re not even just taking something that someone else taught you. But you took an idea and then you’re iterating it in community, even if it’s community from a distance…

Pam: mhmm.

Melissa: and implementing it that way, and then sharing it with others of us who, you know, are still a few years behind. My oldest is only fourteen, so we’re just, you know we’re just getting to that older kid thing. So I’m, I’m following, I’m the little sister. [laughter] I’m the one looking up to the rest of you. I’m being pulled along. So I’m grateful for people like you.

Pam: yeah, that’s fun. Well, and the whole Morning Time podcast idea came out of the fact that, you know, Sarah Mackenzie is a very good friend of mine. And she had written Teaching From Rest and had started traveling around the country talking to moms, and you know, back in the day, she and Mystie and I would get together and chat, and she was like, there’s so many moms who have very specific questions about Morning Time. And that, at that point Cindy was not in, she was not there. You know, that was just not what she was doing at that point. And so there was kind of a void there. And it was something I loved doing with my kids and something I loved talking about. So that was, that was where it started, and you know it’s been so much fun to talk about through the years.

Melissa: yeah, yeah. So, give me a quick idea of something that you plan to bring to the table at Paideia Northwest. Is it Morning Time? Is it a different niche?

Pam: well, I tell you, Morning Time will be a big part of whatever it is. So anything I’m talking it. The examples, Morning Time is gonna be there. It’s gonna come from Morning Time. But I have a quote I’m gonna share, I absolutely love this quote from G.K. Chesterton. And it is, “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.”

Melissa: mhmm.

Pam: and so that’s kind of like where we’re gonna start the conversation about, what are some practical ways that you can bring this idea of wonder into your family, into your home, into your homeschool, or just you know into your home in general. And this idea that, you know, so often when we think about inspiring wonder in our kids, it can be a little bit overwhelming for us. Because you know, what’s bigger than wonder? Right? It’s a huge, big thing! Except it doesn’t have to be. And so we’re gonna talk about the different between the noun wonder and the verb wonder, and how we can bring some of those things into our home without it being just another thing that gets added to our to do list or has to, you know, the box has to be checked off. A lot of times moms are either, like, overwhelmed by the thought of adding something else or they’re like, how do I even start?

Melissa: yeah.

Pam: you know. And so we want to kind of break that down.

Melissa: that sounds so good. This is completely a personal tangent. But today I was cracking eggs, I was making zucchini bread… because it’s August and we have lots of zucchini, and we have a whole bunch of chickens so I have a whole bunch of eggs. So I was making zucchini bread, and I cracked a couple eggs – they were perfect. Cracked my third egg, and… there was a baby, like, a baby chick developing in it. And I thought, oh my word, I had no idea! I don’t know how many days it had been hidden somewhere in the straw, or, I don’t know. Anyway, and I thought, oh I wanna hide this, I don’t want my kids to see this, it’s you know… and then I thought, you know what, how often do we get to see something like this? And just to see, okay sure, they’re probably gonna be like, Mom, that’s gross. But to enjoy the wonder of that!

Pam: yeah.

Melissa: so it’s almost a perspective of: yeah, it doesn’t have to be some great big thing, I didn’t have to do a whole unit study on the development of chicks. I could, that would be fun, and maybe this will inspire that kind of thing. But just as a catalyst for, Mom was gonna crack an egg, and look, there’s, there’s a chicken developing in there. And it’s sad, you know, now it’s, it can’t continue to live. But how wonder-filled is it to see that? And just to have that surprise us. And I think that kind of thing can happen in the most unexpected places. Like just making zucchini bread on a Monday morning.

Pam: and just the fact that you, you realized that possibility and, you know… because a lot of times, we would be like, oh, well my kids could never experience this, because you know, what’s the likelihood that we’re gonna stumble upon this big glorious moment of this chick breaking free of its shell? You know? And so, how often can we make that happen? Not very often for most of us. And you know, you realized in the moment that I can use what I have here…

Melissa: yeah.

Pam: you know, to inspire a little bit of wonder. Albeit in kind of a sad way. [laughter] I’m like, you’re the farm girl because like you’re definitely way calmer about this than I would have been.

Melissa: well I think it just goes back to that Chesterton quote, that the world is full of these wonders. There will never be a lack of it. You know, they’re everywhere if we have the eyes to see.

Pam: oh yeah. So much.

Melissa: oh, it’s such a good world.

Pam: great example.

Melissa: so of the three words – wonder, wisdom, and worship – that we’re kind of presenting as the main core for this year’s event, how are they presented or prioritized in your home? And I have the feeling it’s probably gonna go back to Morning Time!

Pam: how did you know?

Melissa: I just had a feeling! [laughter]

Pam: I mean, totally! Like if anybody’s saying to me, how can I do this wonder, wisdom, and worship thing in my home? I’m like, here I can lay out a plan for you!

Melissa: yep, let me give you a basket!

Pam: yeah, it’s called Morning Time, let me give you a basket. That’s exactly right! But I love, I love the idea of just Morning Basket. And you know once again marrying that idea that goes back to Teaching From Rest, and the idea of I’m bringing my basket. Because you know Sarah talks about in there the feeding of the five thousand. Where you know, the disciples bring the little basket with the fish and the loaves in it, and then you know, Jesus turns it into so much that there are, what, twelve baskets left over?

Melissa: yeah!

Pam: and so like, we bring our basket, we’re faithful to doing the work, and He turns it into so much more. And I love that analogy for my Morning Basket.

Melissa: mhmm.

Pam: I bring my little basket each morning, and I put in those elements of wonder, of wisdom, and of worship. And then He’s the One Who’s gonna take and do the work, and make it into so much more. But yeah, that’s exactly how we do it. We do it with Morning Time. So.

Melissa: yeah. How do you see wonder, wisdom, and worship… how do they speak to one another? How does wonder inspire us to worship? How does worship increase our wisdom? How does wisdom give us eyes to see the wonder? Or how does wisdom deepen our understanding of worship? What are some of those intertwining things for you?

Pam: I think you don’t need me to say anything at all. You just said all of it right there. [laughter]

Melissa: oh! [laughter]

Pam: I mean, you’ve done such a great of doing it! But it’s very much, is the case is that, I mean, think about truth, goodness, and beauty. None of these things exist – wonder, wisdom, and worship – truth, goodness, and beauty – none of it exists in a vacuum. It’s all dependent upon each other. And I think, you know, God has a plan where He ties these things together. And so we do, we you know, we have to have wisdom to know that there are wonders out there and we’re going to see them. And all of these wonders that we do experience leads us into an attitude of worship. And so there’s very much an intertwining of them, and I think you expressed it wonderfully. So.

Melissa: because I said something, somewhere on, online… briefly about wonder increasing my wisdom, or when I embrace wonder my hope is that it increases my wisdom, and the more I increase in wisdom, I hope that that just brings me to worship God more richly, more deeply. And someone commented, “but don’t lose the wonder.” And I said, oh yeah, totally! I, it’s cyclical and it’s intertwining, and they’re all mushy and they shake around together. It’s not a linear thing. It’s not like you go from A to B to C. It’s just alphabet soup. It just all goes around.

Pam: well, and I think maybe the caution there, I think is, you know, the caution there would be to think, well, I know too much. You know, I’ve become too knowledgeable. I’ve got so much wisdom that I’m no longer going to be able to wonder at anything, you know. I’ve just, you know, I have a fifteen year old right now whose favorite saying is, I’m always right! [laughter] And I’m like, oh, if you only knew! And actually I think the thing I told him yesterday was, boy, you are your mother’s child, aren’t you? [laughter] But I think one of the things, that age shows us is that, you know, you, you can never be too wise. You know. Like you can be too big for your britches. But honestly, if you, if you have grown so “wise” – and I’m using air quotes here – that you no longer can experience the wonder, then, then you’ve lost it altogether. And I think that’s probably what they were cautioning you against. And as we grow in wisdom, true wisdom, I think what we see is that there are more and more wonders out there to behold. And that’s why Chesterton said this quote and not, you know, me.

Melissa: yeah. I almost wonder if wisdom is that glue. You know, if the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and then it’s wisdom that goes out and infiltrates, bringing us to more wonder and more worship. Hm. I have a few more months to ponder this!

Pam: I’m gonna… I was gonna say, I’m gonna ponder that one before I get there, and see where that goes. [laughter]

Melissa: we’ve got a couple months, so you know, maybe we’ll have some good answers by November fifth. We’ll see.

Pam: yeah, that’s interesting to see how the wonder plays into that…

Melissa: yeah.

Pam: wisdom and worship piece from that verse you just quoted, yeah.

Melissa: well I remember talking to Heather Tully about that before you guys were officially writing your book, Gather. And we were talking about wonder, wisdom, and worship; and it ended up as, isn’t it your…

Pam: it’s the subtitle, yeah.

Melissa: subtitle, yeah. And I’m really excited that not only will we get to have you at the conference, we will also have Heather Tully at the conference. And I think we’re even gonna have some Gather books there.

Pam: yes. Yes, we will get some out there.

Melissa: so that’s gonna be a lot of fun. We’ll get to share, we’ll get to share that. I also want to know, since I just mentioned Gather, what was your favorite part of putting that book together with Heather?

Pam: the fact that Heather came with this wonderful idea, you know. She just came with this beautiful, wonderful idea, and her photography is so stunning. So just the opportunity to bring, you know, go into the… we ended up with nine different families in there. I didn’t have to go to anybody’s home, which quite frankly as an introvert, I was pretty happy about. But she went and did all the hard work, and then brought back the photographs, and then we were able to take those photographs and create just something that was so beautiful but also so practical for homeschool moms. And you know, she came to me with the, the concept, and we just built upon it from there. And so, I don’t know. I love that it was such a fabulous idea and she let me part of it. I think that’s my favorite part: she had such a fabulous idea, and she let me be part of that. So.

Melissa: aw. Yeah. Mm. I love that book. I love the pictures, I love the stories, I love the people. You know, so many of those people are people that I follow online sort of, like, oh here’s a deeper look into this specific thing, and it’s just… it’s a huge gift, so.

Pam: yeah.

Melissa: okay. Now just for fun, I like to have some silly, silly questions. So what is your current… and again, this is, this is summer so maybe it changes once fall comes around or something… but what’s your current favorite drink of choice?

Pam: right now it’s kombucha.

Melissa: kombucha. What flavor?

Pam: yes. I like anything with ginger, so like Gingerberry, Gingerade. I do not brew my own. I’ve tried it before. Heather tells me I should go back and do it some more. But you know, I just, I go to the store and I buy it. Anything with ginger.

Melissa: yeah, fun, okay. And what is a hymn that you love?

Pam: How Great Thou Art, which I think is lovely to go right along with the wonder idea. But that’s one of my absolute favorites, so.

Melissa: mmm, now I’m gonna have to go back and look at the lyrics. O Lord my God, when I in…

Pam: in awesome wonder.

Melissa: wonder, yeah.

Pam: consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. Yep.

Melissa: okay, we might have to sing that at the conference.

Pam: we can do it!

Melissa: I think, there we go. There we go. I might have been hoping you’d give me a good idea. [laughter] One less thing for me to have to make a decision on. There we go, it’s done. And then, this is always a dangerous question for any Scholé Sister but I’m gonna ask it anyway. What have you been reading lately?

Pam: oh man, I forgot you were gonna ask this question. I’ve been reading a business book. Is that bad? [laughter]

Melissa: no, that’s continuing education right there! That sounds like it should be on a five by five challenge.

Pam: okay, and it’s also been summer. So I have, if you haven’t, so it’s not the most scholarly scholé of works… but a friend recently recommended Where the Crawdads Sing to me…

Melissa: I just bought that! I just stuck it on my bookshelf behind me!

Pam: okay, I really thoroughly enjoyed it, it was a fabulous summer read. I love bubble bath books, and it was the perfect bubble bath book. But one of the things I do like about the book was how autodidactic the main character was. And she does a lot of teaching herself, and getting into the, she becomes a naturalist… not a big spoiler there… and really like dives into the natural world around her. And because of that interest, because of her wonder, she becomes an expert on the subject. So.

Melissa: perfect. Perfect! Now, I just also have to know, do you have crawdads around where you live?

Pam: not that I’m aware of. [laughter]

Melissa: it just sounds like such a southern title to me. Although we have crawdads in the little river that’s just down the road from me, and we’re not in the South.

Pam: we probably do. You know, we probably do in the little rivers that are around here. But…

Melissa: but your kids aren’t out there like snagging them in nets and bringing them home and asking you to fry them up.

Pam: no, no, no. They know better.

Melissa: [laughter] my kids have done that! It’s not wonderful, actually, so hmm.

Pam: my kids would be saying, can we go down to the store and get some fried chicken? That’s what they would be saying.

Melissa: well, even grocery store fried chicken has to be pretty good in the South, so.

Pam: oh it totally is. And it’s actually so much better, for just to go do it, than it is to like heat up and mess up the house making it yourself. I’m like, yeah, I’ll totally go get you some fried chicken.

Melissa: that’s a hot tip. If I ever get down to the Deep South, that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be going to Safeway. Or the Piggly Wiggly.

Pam: the Piggly Wiggly is awesome. Piggly Wiggly is awesome. But we get our fried chicken at Publix and we love it. My endorsement.

Melissa: there we go. [laughter] I appreciate hot tips like that. Okay, well hey, thanks for taking the time to check in about all things conference, and chatting about wonder with me. I’m, I’m so excited to be able to just focus on those things – on wonder, wisdom, and worship – over the next few months, and then culminate it all in November…

Pam: yeah.

Melissa: at this event.

Pam: I’m expecting some fall weather when I come, please.

Melissa: you know occasionally we’ve had snow.

Pam: I don’t want that.

Melissa: okay. [laughter]

Pam: but I’m just, I’m just ordering up some fall weather so I can bring a sweater or two.

Melissa: yeah I was gonna say, feel free to bring a sweater. I’m trying to think, someone once brought… oh maybe it was Cindy from Tennessee… brought like a scarf and… oh we did have snow. We did have snow that weekend. So it’s already happened. It won’t happen this year.

Pam: I’ll bring my big coat just in case. I have one. I have one! I’ve had it for like twelve years now, and yeah, I’ll bring it.

Melissa: yeah, be cozy. We’ll have some hot tea set aside, or something with ginger.

Pam: awesome.

Melissa: yeah. Okay, Pam, thank you so much. We’re looking forward to having you here.

Pam: well thanks so much for having me, Melissa, I really appreciate it.

Melissa: yeah, yeah, we’ll be in touch!

Pam: thanks for having me. We’ll talk to you soon.

Melissa: okay, bye!

Pam: all right. Bye.

How Great Thou Art. Text by Carl Boberg, 1885. Translated into English by Stuart K. Hine, 1949.

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great thou art! How great Thou art!

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burdens gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great thou art! How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation,
To take me home, what joy will fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great thou art! How great Thou art!

Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more encouragement and conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for encouragement and ideas about raising your children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord. Please join me next time for another paideia conversation. And in the meantime, peace be with you.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 16

As we prepare for the opening of registration for Paideia Northwest’s 2022 conference for Christian mamas raising their kids for Christ, I get the pleasure of checking in with the conference speakers one by one… and you get to listen in to find out what they are preparing to share with us in November as we discuss Wonder, Wisdom, & Worship. And as today’s podcast guest suggests, we might throw a little Work into the discussion as well! It all ties together so nicely when Christ is at the center of it… why not?!

For this paideia conversation, we get to hear from Mystie Winckler from SimplyConvivial.com and ScholeSisters.com to find out about her plans for this year’s Paideia Northwest event. She will not only have hard copies of her first book, The Convivial Homeschool, available for purchase but will be expanding on some of the principles and experiences shared therein for her session at Wonder, Wisdom, & Worship. As a seasoned homeschooling mama with two graduates so far, and three more well on their way, Mystie shares with us about her own need for wonder in her pursuit of wisdom as well as the perspective that keeps worship as the central element in their home and life. Don’t neglect the gathering of the saints! From that centrality of worship flows wisdom and wonder to carry into family worship, personal piety, and home education routines. Also, just for fun, find out what drink, hymns, and books Mystie has currently at her fingertips.

I hope this whets your appetite for learning more from Mystie on November 5th! This is just the beginning.

Links and Resources

Gates of Excellence by Katherine Paterson

The Convivial Homeschool by Mystie Winckler

Scholé Sisters

Simply Convivial

Your Morning Basket

LaCroix

For All the Saints

A Mighty Fortress

Augustine’s Confessions

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Transcript

Melissa: Hello and welcome to Paideia Conversations where we dialogue about all things paideia. I am your host, Melissa Cummings, from Paideia Northwest. This is where you can listen in as Christian mamas discuss our purpose to raise our children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord – His paideia.

From “Gates of Excellence” by Katherine Paterson. Dog Day Wonder. It was the sort of hot and humid day in late August that I just hoped to get through without snapping off the children’s heads at the neckline. Not the sort, surely, upon which I expected to receive a wonderful gift from one of the very children I was threatening to decapitate.

At about noon, David brought me a cicada which he had earlier discovered coming out of the ground. “I think it’s about ready to shed its skin!” he said. “Watch!”

At about four o’clock, the twig was empty. Our cicada had flown to the oak tree to breed and die, oblivious to the wake of wonder it had left behind. As I let that wonder wash over me, I realized that this was the gift I really wanted to give my children. For what good are straight teeth and trumpet lessons to a person who cannot see the grandeur that the world is charged with?

In her book, “The Sense of Wonder,” Rachel Carson says that if she had influence over the good fairy who gives gifts to children at their christening, she would ask the fairy to give each child a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, was an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, a spare occupation with things that are artificial, an alienation from the sources of our strength. Pity we can’t tap that fairy resource. Or is it? Isn’t wonder a truly human characteristic? In fact, I don’t even subscribe to that well-worn platitude that children are born with a sense of wonder that becomes dulled in the pursuit of living.

Children are born with a wholesome sense of curiosity – I won’t argue that. But wonder is more than curiosity. It demands an element of awe, a marveling that takes time and wisdom to supply. Thus to follow Miss Carson’s lead, if I want my children to develop an indestructible sense of wonder, then I must first develop my own. There have been times – that twilight when we saw the double rainbow spanning Lake George, and snatched all the children out of bed to run to the lakeside and watch until it faded into the dusk – or when the riot of summer stars drove us right out of our car into an open field to bend our necks back and gape and gaze. But as I joyfully recall these rare moments, I am sobered to realize how often I must be missing other chances for wonder, which like Dog Day Cicada are all about me humming in the trees.

Tis ye, tis your estranged faces that miss the many splendored thing.

What I desire then for myself and for my children is a face not estranged but expectant. A sense of wonder on the way to becoming both indestructible and contagious.

Joining me today for this paideia conversation is my friend Mystie Winckler. She is the author of The Convivial Homeschool, she is a member of the Scholé Sisters, and she runs something called Simply Convivial which is basically the mecca of homemaking and homeschooling sanity. [laughter] She lives out the gospel in all kinds of ways, and is constantly urging me toward love and good works. I am delighted that she has been on this Paideia Northwest conference journey with me since 2018, and she’s joining us again this year to speak with us about wonder, wisdom, and worship. Thanks for joining me today, Mystie!
All right, would you go ahead and briefly introduce yourself? And tell me what you love about educating your kids for Christ. It’s a, you know, super succinct question. [laughter]

Mystie: well, I am Mystie Winckler, and I write and podcast at SimplyConvivial.com about homemaking and homeschooling and doing life cheerfully. I am also author of the book, The Convivial Homeschool – Gospel Encouragement for Keeping Your Sanity While Living and Learning Alongside Your Kids, which has come out since the last Paideia conference, so I’m excited to actually have a book on the table this year. That’s gonna be fun. And so that book really is my telling of, many of our homeschool stories. And it is especially written for women who have been homeschooling for a while and are finding that maybe homeschooling isn’t what they thought it was. Homeschooling is hard a lot of the time, and so it can become discouraging when we feel like we’re failing or we’re just not succeeding because our every day doesn’t match our imagination. It definitely doesn’t match our plan, and what do we do with that reality? One thing is to know that you’re not alone, and so a part of the reason why I wrote the book is just to say, this is totally normal! But it’s not just normal, like we can all commiserate about how terrible it is – it’s actually a part of God’s sanctifying work in our lives. We homeschool for our children, but God also uses our role as a homeschooling mom in our own lives to sanctify us and to call us to greater holiness. Not because it’s our holiness or our good job that’s going to do a good work for our kids or in our kids. That’s all God. And it’s all God in our kids and it’s all God in us also. So a lot of what we as moms have to learn as we mother and as we homeschool is that God’s working in our lives as well as our kids’ lives, and it’s about faithfully walking where He has put us and the struggles that He’s given us. Rather than doing, you know, executing an awesome homeschool day where everything… where no one cheats and everyone keeps their pencil all day, and no one kicks another person under the table. [laughter]

Melissa: I was actually just looking for my copy of The Convivial Homeschool, and I can’t find it. And I’m like, that’s so not fair; because I had bought twelve copies of it, and gave away at least ten of them but I thought I still had two. And one of… my personal, marked up copy – now I can’t find anywhere. So okay, all right if I can’t find it by November, it’s a good thing that you reminded me that you’ll have books.

Mystie: [laughter] I will have books. It’s always sad to lose a book that you’ve marked up in though.

Melissa: I know! It’s hard… I don’t think I would’ve lent it out. So it’s probably just buried somewhere. But I’m a little stressed about that. Because I was just looking for that, and it’s not here. We start school in a couple of weeks, and I was hoping to get that little refresher. So, I will if I find it.

Mystie: what do you think? The fun thing is that the audiobook version is gonna be out here in about a week or two also. So that’s gonna be fun.

Melissa: how do we get that one?

Mystie: that’ll be on Audible, on Amazon. And I read it, and then it was edited and you know, the sound quality is great, and it’s gonna be on Audible. So just take an Audible credit, and… I don’t know how much… Amazon and Audible does all the stuff with how much things actually cost.

Melissa: oh that’s cool. I love it when authors read their books. So that will be perfect.

So give me an idea: you are obviously bringing Simply Convivial and The Convial Homeschool, and representing the Scholé Sisters at the conference. But as far as being a speaker, what is it that you plan to bring to that proverbial table?

Mystie: well this year, I’m excited to share the stage with my good friend Pam Barnhill, and I know that Pam really speaks very well to the newer homeschool mom. Either whether that’s younger kids, or just starting with older kids. A lot of what she says, not everything, but it’s really geared for people just starting out or just starting to find their way and figure out their own way of homeschooling. And so I am kind of coming alongside that and speaking more for the moms who have been homeschooling for a while, and are maybe feeling like they are losing the joy or losing the momentum, losing the motivation even because it just doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. And this year’s topic with wonder, worship, and work – I love how work tacks on on there because we often don’t associate those with the others. We think about those things as we plan for our kids, and we often neglect to think about them for ourselves as homeschool moms. And it’s not just that we have to model for our kids what we want for them, but if wonder and worship and work are good things that we want for our kids, are they good things that we want for ourself also? Are we willing to be students ourselves? Are we willing to learn and grow ourselves? Because that’s what we are all called to do. So we’re making it possible for our kids to do that in our homeschools, but if we’re neglecting our own sense of wonder and worship and work, then we are missing a huge part of the opportunity and our responsibility. I know we say a lot as moms that we want our kids to be lifelong learners, but that means that… a lifelong learner is someone who’s always learning for their whole life, and do we want that for ourselves? Or do we say, well, I’m just not a math person. I’m just not a XYZ person. That’s exactly what we don’t want our kids to do, and we shouldn’t do that ourselves either. So I’m gonna kind of speak on what that looks like as a mom who is super busy and has a lot on her plate already, and feels like, well, I can’t just say that I want to pursue math or nature or music or whatever because my plate’s full. It’s my kids’ plates that I’m gonna be filling up but my plate’s full. And the reality is that through wonder and worship and work, there’s more room on the plate, and some of the things that feel like they’re taking up a lot of that space don’t take up the space that… they don’t make it impossible to include an interest in the world. It’s compatible with the responsibilities, it goes alongside of it, they don’t, they aren’t mutually exclusive where it’s a… It’s not a fixed pie where are certain, so many bits of us that we can put here and there. There is a sense in which that’s true but when we’re talking about wonder and wisdom, wonder and worship, wonder and work, that just goes alongside of everything that we are doing as people. And moms are people too. [laughter]

Melissa: moms are born persons, I heard someone say. You know, and I know that’s not like a unique little thing that she said. But she said it out of the blue to me the other day, and I was like, yes. Yes, moms are. [laughter] We’re not born moms, but we’re born persons. [laughter] So now you have me second guessing, I have to tell you: because you said wonder, wis… no wait, what did you say? You said wonder, worship, and work? And work isn’t one of them!

Mystie: oh! Okay! [laughter]

Melissa: and now I’m like…

Mystie: I totally made that up!

Melissa: man! Now you replaced wisdom with work, but I mean, that should be interchangeable, right?

Mystie: wisdom is an acting upon knowledge. If you don’t do something, you don’t have wisdom. So maybe that could be work. [laughter]

Melissa: oh but now I’m just like, man, how can I get a fourth W in there? [laughter] I can always count on you for giving me extra alliterative options.

Mystie: that’s right.

Melissa: okay, all right. Now my brain is spinning. So as a mom of older kids, as a mom who has been in the trenches of homeschooling for years – two graduates…

Mystie: mhmm.

Melissa: how does wonder come into play? Because I feel like a lot of people say that wonder should be maximized in sort of the grammar, the grammar phase. Or even, you know, toddlers. They’re just, their eyes see wonder so easily. But how, how does that get some kind of priority or presence in your home as a mom with no toddlers around?

Mystie: I know!

Melissa: what does that look like?

Mystie: well there’s a little bit of the wonder… a different kind of wide eyed wonder… when your teens drive off in a car by themselves. [laughter] It’s maybe a little bit of a different kind of wonder. But it’s a thing. Watching your own children become adults and do their own thing and make their own decisions without you is definitely a source of wonder in a mom’s life. And it can be a big source of stress and worry for moms but when we recognize how God has been working in our lives all along, and in our kids lives all along, and we recognize that this next stage is God’s working in their lives – in our kids’ lives – even without us, and the faith and trust in letting them be their own persons… what would be a source of occasion for stress or anxiety or worry can instead be a source for wonder and worship as we just step out in faith on a new phase of life where you know… hopefully we’ve admitted it earlier in parenting, but you definitely have to by the time they’re adults, but it, the results are not in your hands as the parent. And so when you see that, the earlier you see that the better, and you, because you definitely will have to learn it by the time they’re going out in a car by themselves. And if, if wonder is basic to learning, which it is, then that’s why we begin with it with our little kids, because they need that wonder before learning. And it also comes more naturally to them. So we’re working with the grain when they’re little. But that doesn’t make it something that we grow out of. Even as a newly forty year old, it’s, wonder is still something that I need to intentionally cultivate and I know I went through a lot of years as a young mother, almost intentionally putting it aside. Like thinking that I was past that stage and finding opportunities for my toddlers and preschoolers to experience that, but not wanting even to get it myself because I, you know, I was a grown up now. And so some of that is being, I was a particularly young mother, my oldest, I had my oldest when I was twenty-one. So you know I was a mom in my twenties. And I wanted, I wanted to be a grown up since like I was ten years old. So it’s like, every milestone was, oh I’m finally a grown up! I’m finally a grown up! And a part of my definition at that time of being a grown up was knowing about things, being sure about what you were doing, and not experiencing wonder. That was a little kid thing. It was something to move on from. And so a part of my own journey as a homeschooling mom, as a Christian, was repenting of that attitude and that posture about experiencing wonder.

Melissa: I feel like… and again, since I couldn’t find my copy of your book, I can’t look this up right now… but I feel like you mention that in the beginning of the book – is that idea of repenting of wanting to be past that. Do you remember, is that something in the book? Or did I get that elsewhere from you?

Mystie: yeah, yeah. No, that is in there, and I was gonna expand on that in my talk and share more about that. And more about my, the list that I made when I was twelve about how much of a better mom I was gonna be than my own homeschooling mother. [laughter] She always made sure that I never forgot that! And so now I’m grateful, because now that’s [laughter], I use that story all the time.

Melissa: so tell me briefly. I know your family enough to know that worship is central. It’s central to your day, your routines, your week, your life. It’s not an occasional thing and it’s not an optional thing: it’s central. So tell me how, how does worship lead that centrality in your home?

Mystie: I think the most important thing to keeping worship central is corporate Sunday worship at church. We can do family worship and we can do Morning Time with hymns and Scripture and catechism – and we do those things – but those flow from the basic obedience of gathering with God’s people in corporate worship on Sunday. And I think it’s easy to kind of mix those up, cuz on the one hand, one of the things that we do do in our Morning Time, our Morning Basket time, which I know Pam will talk about at the conference, but we, what we choose to do during that time does help prepare us for corporate worship. But that’s because the corporate worship is central. Because you know God says don’t neglect the gathering together of the saints, and there’s a healthy chunk of Scripture that’s about, this is how church is run, this is what church is – and so the things that we do as a family for worship are pointing us that direction and then the Sunday worship is kind of feeding and being fleshed out the rest of the week too. But it’s a, a mutually reinforcing cycle.

Melissa: by those things, I think that’s where that sort of cyclical… man, a cyclical cycle, what am I saying? [laughter] Here’s Redundancy 101! But how wisdom and worship and wonder and let’s throw work in there [laughter] all… they feed each other, they inform one another. When Christ is at the center, those are just, they’re all intertwining.

Mystie: mhmm.

Melissa: I love that. So just for fun, I want to know… so it’s August, it’s hot, it’s summer… what’s your current favorite drink of choice?

Mystie: I’ve got a LaCroix right here with me. [laughter]

Melissa: so do I! [laughter] But yours is pink, mine’s green. What is a hymn that you love? Either that you have always loved or that you’re currently loving?

Mystie: one of our family, foundational hymns is For All the Saints.

Melissa: all the verses, right?

Mystie: all the verses! There are eight verses… eight or nine… there’s at least eight verses to For All the Saints. And we sang that at our wedding twenty-one years ago, and then it’s just been one of those that when we do family singing time… it’s just one of our family favorite hymns, which is fun. I’m, I am looking forward to perhaps in a few… you know, looking forward and it still is definitely forward to someday maybe one of my kids will pick that in their wedding too. You know, being closer, closer to those times than our own wedding.

Melissa: that would be fun.

Mystie: and then also A Mighty Fortress is Our God is my fam… like my parents and my siblings, that was our family hymn, it was my dad’s favorite, and when we would do… it was kind of like our Morning Time, our family worship time, or whatever. People would get to choose hymns, and that one was almost always chosen. So that’s one that, you know, myself, my kids, my nieces and nephews and siblings – all learn to sing, it’s one of the first ones we learn to sing by heart.

Melissa: that reminds me, last week we didn’t have enough hymnals in our row, and so I ended up not having a hymnal. But it was fantastic, because the songs that were chosen that morning, I knew every single one from memory, all the verses.

Mystie: yes!

Melissa: and I just thought, what a gift that I have those decades of this practice of worship, corporate worship but also you know at home worship, feeding my memory. And it just gave me such a practical example of thankfulness for that. I wasn’t Corrie ten Boom, you know, stuck in a prison cell or something. It was corporate worship, I could have walked to another pew and grabbed another hymnal, but I just thought, what a gift that we have been given this capacity for memory! And music. I don’t know, yeah.

Mystie: I think that’s another example of how our homeschooling does benefit us as moms, too. And it’s easy to fixate on our kids memorizing those hymns and our kids repeating and learning and putting things in their heart, and one thing that I realize now more than I did… I didn’t appreciate it when we began, but now those things that we have repeated… and I’ve repeated them with older kids and then the middle kids and now it’s like, no, we’ve got to keep repeating these for the younger kids. And it’s like, well, I know these things. If they don’t know them, you know what, I don’t even care. Because I do, and I like it! So we’re gonna keep doing this because I’m enjoying it, I want to know it. I know it now well enough that I want to repeat it. And they can get to that point in their lives when they’re homeschooling their kids.

Melissa: right? Yes. I think that’s another version of the sanctifying nature of motherhood, or of homeschooling. People will say… I’ve said this too… motherhood is so sanctifying, you know, as a, well the flames are hot, there’s a lot of dross burned off. But then just also that sanctification, that making more holy over time, of things like singing those hymns and doing those catechisms. So. My last question, which I feel like is always a dangerous question with you [laughter], what have you been reading lately?

Mystie: well, I am reading Augustine’s Confessions for the very first time. With a new local book club that I’m in here in our new, new town. And so, I’m not very far. I think I’m on book three, and I have a week and a half left to finish it, so. But I’m reading Augustine’s Confessions. And I just finished A Gentleman in Moscow as my novel, fun read. It’s not Russian literature, which I thought it was going into it. I know I was like a few chapters into a Gentleman in Moscow, and I was like, this doesn’t seem Russian. [laughter] And I quick looked it up, and it’s not, it was written by an American. It was a fun read. I think that it is problematic in its worldview. It was written in 2016, and so it’s a little bit of… it’s nonChristian. It was a fun story though.

Melissa: we need those every now and then. All right, well, thanks for taking the time to help me get excited about Paideia Northwest. I’m… I was realizing it’s… if registration is opening so soon, and I thought, oh, I need to pull out my checklist and start making sure I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to be doing.

Mystie: yes!

Melissa: so checking in with speakers, and then drumming up some excitement at least within myself if not with others is high priority for August. So thanks for taking the time to chat with me about it.

Mystie: yes, thank you, Melissa! And I look forward to seeing you next!


For All the Saints. Text by William Walsham How, 1864.
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness dread, their one true light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
and win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again and arms are strong.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
The golden evening brightens in the west;
soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
But, lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

A Mighty Fortress is our God. Text by Martin Luther, 1529. Translated by Frederick H. Hedge, 1853.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same;
and He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever!

Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more encouragement and conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for encouragement and ideas about raising your children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord. Please join me next time for another paideia conversation. And in the meantime, peace be with you.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 15

Paideia Conversations is primarily hosted by Melissa Cummings from Paideia Northwest, but we love sharing conversations with our Paideia Southeast community based in Georgia as often as possible. For this episode, Paideia Southeast member Jenn Discher cohosts as we interview Sara Fragoso on the topic of the habit of discipleship. As a mama to three tweens, Sara has lots of tips for how to get started (and how to maintain) with things like Scripture memory, true mottos to speak over one another, and a balanced perspective on how to incorporate different children with different cognitive abilities into the same Morning Time routines and faith practices. This is a conversation full of practical application, mutual encouragement, and a sprinkling of laughter. So pop it into your earbuds while you go about your morning walk or housework routine, and get reinvigorated for the long haul habit of discipleship as a Christian mama.

Resources and Links:

Paideia Southeast

The Bible Reading Challenge

Loving the Little Ones sermon series

Saturation Love article

The Wise Woman by George MacDonald

The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald

What Have You podcast

TRANSCRIPT

Melissa: Hello and welcome to Paideia Conversations where we dialogue about all things paideia. I am your host, Melissa Cummings, from Paideia Northwest. This is where you can listen in as Christian mamas discuss our purpose to raise our children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord — His paideia.

Joining me today for this paideia conversation is my cohost Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast, and the recent speaker and panel member from the Paideia Southeast event, Habits to Shape Hearts and Homes, Sara Fragoso. We invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.

All right, well, thanks for joining me this morning… or this afternoon, I guess, for you all in the South. For this little conversation we get to chat about habits, and it’s so fun to have Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast with me today! And then her friend Sara Fragoso, who I am absolutely delighted to meet because she spoke at an event last Saturday that I was three thousand miles away from and couldn’t attend. So this is my sneaky little way of being a fly on the wall when I couldn’t actually be a fly on the wall. So, good morning, ladies! Good afternoon.

Sara: good morning.

Jenn: hey. So Sara is one of my dear friends. And we did ask her to speak at a Paideia Southeast even on Saturday. Our theme was Habits to Shape Hearts and Homes, and we asked Sara to specifically speak to some relationship habits – habits of discipleship. And so then, so specifically, relational habits in terms of how we interact with our kids. And I asked Sara to do this because I think Sara has the somewhat unique combination of both taking God’s standards seriously and holding herself to those as well as her kids, but also having a really fun, joyful, loving home atmosphere. And she just, she doesn’t just hold up the bar of, you know, of biblical standards and say, okay kids, jump to it. [laughter] Which is, which is really easy to do.

Melissa: it’s temping.

Jenn: yeah, I mean, just to hold it there. She is so good about intentionally training her kids to reach that. She really gets down on their level and, and works alongside of them with a really like joyful spirit, which I just love. I have learned so much from Sara over the years. I learned so much more even in her talk. I was taking notes as she was walking, and so I’m so happy that she’s here!

Sara: okay, well, thank you so much for having me. And thank you, Jenn, for that introduction. Goodness.

Melissa: no pressure.

Sara: yeah, right? [laughter] I have three children: a twelve and a half year old… he would want me to say the half… an almost eleven year old and a nine year old. We live in Greenville, South Carolina. I used to live right by Jenn, and then we moved. And I live with my husband Eric. And we are part of a church plant here, which we just love, Christ the King. And I’ve homeschooled for many years. Before that, I was a public school teacher. So that’s about all I can think of.

Melissa: wow, okay, so what is your history with um discipleship outside of your children – so you have three pretty close in age, and they’re all in that sort of tween almost-teen… so discipleship gets really real right around that point.

Sara: yes, yes, I’ve noticed. [laughter] It’s gotten harder in some ways. It takes more time, actually.

Melissa: it does.

Sara: which has really been interesting.

Melissa: yeah.

Sara: and I should mention my youngest has Down’s syndrome, so she is actually still in that littler kid phase.

Melissa: okay.

Sara: so even though my three are close together, I do have sort of that gap where I’m still in the little years in some ways, even though we’re moving into the pre teen years.

Melissa: sure, yeah. The way that that nuances discipleship and relationship and habits… I would think would be, yeah, a unique thing that you could speak to.

Sara: yeah.

Melissa: that’s awesome. Okay! So, Jenn, you have specifics. I’d love to know if you could just pepper Sara with some questions for us.

Jenn: yeah! Yes, this is very natural for me. I pepper Sara with questions often. [laughter] But I think, so the first one is just, just broadly – you spoke about relational habits, habits of discipleship with your kids. Kind of ways, maybe some of this kind of like mental habits – ways of thinking about discipleship with your children – on Saturday. So could you mention some of these habits of thinking or of, or of acting, you know, how to, engaging with our kids – that you mentioned on the Saturday event?

Sara: yeah, so the first thing I spoke about was making a habit of pouring into our kids, and I think for some people this comes naturally, and for some people it doesn’t. And so things like affection. I talked about pouring into yourself first, how we need to be in God’s Word daily as moms. Um, and then, also speaking Scripture in our homes all the time, naturally just bringing in Scripture to bear on every single thing that’s going on. So that was the first thing I talked about. And then I talked about having a habit of, of pulling your children toward a vision of who you want them to be. I mean, really, who God wants them to be. But that’s what you’re helping them toward. And ways to use stories to do that, and to really as moms think about how we’re viewing childhood. Are we viewing it as, as this little enclave that we’re creating for them, where we want them to have this magical, beautiful, wonderful childhood? And that’s the end of what we’re trying to do. Or are we actually pulling them toward becoming someone? And I think sometimes we can get so focused on the goodness and the beauty and the truth that we want to give our kids, but that we forget that it’s for something. It’s to help them to meet God’s standards, and it’s to help them to grow and um hopefully pass us. My parents told me that they wanted me to be a better parent than they were, and I actually think that was such a tremendous gift. They’ve encouraged me in that as I’ve been parenting. And so I’ve already told my kids that. Like, look, you’re gonna start out in a better place than I did, and I would love for you to turn a profit on it. I would love for you to soar past me. Like, be where I am when you graduate from my home. And then just take it and run with it. So I think we need to pull our kids toward that, and make sure we focus on that. And then the last thing I spoke about was preparing and practicing with our kids to help them with these standards. So with little kids, practicing things like going to the grocery store before you leave; making sure that we follow through with discipline, and with little kids that might be something like, will they or won’t they participate. Like if you go to do ring around the rosie and they’re pulling away from you, you need to follow through more. Or with older kids, if after discipline they’re retreating to their rooms, that’s a sign that you need to follow through. And then the last one was about having them take responsibility for themselves and for their emotions. And it’s something that’s kind of counterintuitive that I feel like we get backwards a lot. Which is that when our kids are little, we tend to give them a very wide berth for their emotions and coddle them. I mean, they’re so cute and they run to you and they want hugs and comfort, and it’s so easy to indulge that emotion in some ways for ourselves. And then as they get older to be like, whatever, you’re fine, you’re old enough, deal with this. And I really think that’s backwards. I think that when they’re little is when we need to be like, you’re fine, get up. Their emotions are simple, they’re looking to Mom to see how to react. You know we’ve all seen the little kid that falls on the floor and doesn’t cry until Mom looks at him, you know. So I think we need to be a little bit quicker with their emotions when they’re young, and then as they get older and their situations are more complicated and more difficult, we need to take more time with those teens, cuz they’re really needing help sorting out difficult issues that they’re facing in this current culture.

Melissa: that sounds like so much wisdom right there. Did you guys record the talks, Jenn?

Jenn: no, we didn’t. Yeah.

Melissa: well so that makes this even a more important conversation to me then, because this is the only opportunity to get that fly on the wall there. I love that. Now I want to ask you a question, Sara. Talking about emotions and children, just for a framework – do you have boys, girls? I know you said you have one daughter, your youngest is a daughter.

Sara: yes, so I have a boy and then two girls. So the oldest is a boy.

Melissa: a boy and two girls. Okay, all right.

Sara: and one of the things about the emotion is that if you have dealt with them at a young age in this very matter of fact way, like, oh I’m sorry that that kid’s being unkind to you on the playground, why don’t you go play with someone else? And you’re teaching them not to fret over evildoers – one thing about doing that is as they get older, they’re only bringing you the more complicated problems. So yes, if a teenager, you know, stubs his toe and is freaking out, you’re still gonna deal with that like, dude, I’m real sorry, that hurts, but calm down. [laughter] But if they’ve, if they already had that when they’re little, then hopefully they’re already exerting some emotional control over themselves as they’re older and they’re only talking to you about the complicated, relationship dynamics that they’re facing.

Melissa: and how you said that when they’re little but also when they’re older they do this, they turn and they look at they look at their parent, and they say, okay, they saw that this just happened, how is my parent reacting? I think the other thing that I’ve noticed is especially my… I have a ten and a half year old and a fourteen year old, and they’re both boys… they look and they watch when I stub my toe.

Sara: right.

Melissa: or when I slice myself with a knife or when I get emotionally offended or something. So they’re also looking to me to see, how do I handle when I am poked either physically or relationally.

Sara: for sure.

Melissa: but then also like you said, they’re looking to us for, how do we want them to respond when they’re the ones who are poked.

Sara: right.

Jenn: I think a way Sara was helpful, like in various seasons when my kids were younger… we had a lot to work through in this area honestly, because I did not grow up really knowing how to manage my emotions well, so this was something I learned later in life and then was trying to teach my kids but I kind of lacked like good language and like even like a good biblical framework to like talk things through with my kids. And so Sara was helpful with that when my kids were younger. And one phrase that kept coming back to me in thinking through this stuff was, you’re really helping your kids interpret reality. Like they’re looking to you, they’re looking to you like how should I respond here? What, how big a deal is this? And the reality is, some things are a biggee. Like some things are really serious and significant. But most things on the day to day, if we’re just talking about an average home, you know, average circumstances, they’re, if we were thinking of a scale of like one to ten, most things are in the one to three range. And they then would biblically require a one to three level response, right? Like if we’re ruling our spirits and we’re asking God to help us have self control. Like that would be a reasonable response.

Melissa: that’s actually a little phrase, a little piece of language that we use in our home. We learned it from an occupational therapist a few years ago, and we still use it and it’s great to have this language to share with the kids. Where it’s, is that an appropriate sized response? So one of my children would struggle with having an enormous response to a tiny thing, like a size ten response to a size two problem. And we started using this language, and it just sort of helped pause and think, no, actually, you’re right, Mom, that’s not an appropriate sized response. But then, it was funny because maybe a couple weeks into using that phrase in our family, one of the children had… oh, TMI… one of the children [laughter] had this explosive vomiting experience. Like in the middle of the night where it was everywhere, right? And so the child is standing there – the bathroom is covered in this, the child is covered in this, screaming to wake us up, right, in the middle of the night so that we could come help this poor kid deal with this. And as soon as we get in there, what the child says is, was that an appropriate sized response? [laughter] And I was like, yes! This is a time where that was the appropriate sized response, thank you. So because we’d been practicing on little things like stubbing a toe or a sibling, you know, elbowing you either physically or with their words… but when there was actually an issue that was pretty much like, that was a nine or a ten on the rector scale… yeah, the child, that was their immediate thought, was that appropriate? So that was a shaping thing, right? That was training, that was habit – yeah, habit training.

Sara: I love that, because the idea isn’t to have them suppress all their emotions. That’s not the end game here. It’s appropriate responses that are controlled. So I love that when it’s a ten, it’s okay to act like it’s a ten. That’s great.

Jenn: yeah.

Melissa: yeah.

Jenn: speaking of, okay, going back to the pulling, the kind of framework that that habit, Sara, where you’re trying to pull them toward this vision of being a godly adult. Can you give us some practical examples of, of how you might kind of cast that vision for your kids to help them think toward, think toward the, just, yeah, growing up to being a godly adult? What that might look like.

Sara: yeah. So the first thing is for us as moms to think about what we want our kids to look like, and pulling ourselves toward that. So if you have a two year old that’s throwing a temper tantrum, and it’s temping to let it go, because he’s two and cute, you want to pull yourself toward that vision and say, what does this look like at twenty-five? Is this gonna be a good husband and father if this is the level of self control that he has? Right? So it’s pulling ourselves toward that, and then as our kids get older, it looks like… alongside discipline, not instead of discipline, but having conversations with them and saying things… like in my talk, I used the example of, if you have a daughter who’s having trouble with friends, you can tell her a story about a little girl named Susie who comes over and takes her doll and rips the head off and throws it across the room. And you know, be extreme, have your kids laughing. And then contrast that with another friend who comes over who is kind and helpful and helps her clean up, and then you can say, if these kids were real, who would you want to have over? And then have, and then ask, who would you rather be as a friend? And then talk about, okay, let’s work to get there. Let’s practice. Let’s roleplay before you have a friend come over. And then plan short visits. That reminds me of the Scripture we’ve, we pull into our family a lot, which is, he who is faithful with little is faithful with much. And paying attention to that as a mom too. Giving your kids little before you give them much. And so that would be one way to pull a child toward that. Or when they’re older, you know, let’s say your son is a teenager and he’s having trouble with his friends, and you say, you know, is this who you want to be as a dad or a husband? Cu that’s what you’re practicing for here. Or you know, if he’s picking on someone who’s a sister close in age, you might say, what would you think of Dad if he treated me that way? You know. And I ran this by my son, and he was like, whoa, that would make me think. [laughter] So you’re, you know, it’s age appropriate, it’s stories when they’re little and then as they get older, just straight up talking to them about who do they want to be. Who are the adults that they admire? And you can help them toward that by pointing out good qualities in your friends when you see them. I really try to do this, especially with qualities I don’t as much possess. So I’m like, oh wow, Jenn is such… isn’t Miss Jenn such a good hostess? She does such a great job being welcoming and inviting in her home, and you know, pointing out those things that I want them to notice and aspire to. Because I’m not, I can’t be everything. I can’t be. My giftings are not in every area. So, but theirs, maybe theirs will be. [laughter] Maybe not every area.

Jenn: mmm, thank you. What about, so you mention that your youngest has Down’s syndrome – how might you suggest that some of these habits for discipleship work with children who have special needs? And obviously you can’t speak to every, you know, particular need, but just some general principles that might be applicable there?

Sara: so, it is different. It is. It has its own set of challenges. Things that are intuitive with typical children, for you and for them, don’t always work out with kids with special needs. So for example, we moved… um, Amelia was pretty little… and she started just walking out the front door and walking down the sidewalk in the neighborhood. She did not translate that she wasn’t allowed to go the doors at the old house so she wasn’t allowed to go out the doors in the new house. She wasn’t trying to be naughty, she just, it just didn’t happen. And so there is a lot more concentrated effort that has to go in. And meeting the standards, even meeting God’s standards, can be much harder for kids with special needs. From a cognitive standpoint… from a, from a sin standpoint it’s the same. So for example, Amelia started lying about things related to discipline, so it was a heart, it was a heart issue. And I was ready to start disciplining for it, and my husband very wisely said, hey, I’m not sure she quite gets this. Why don’t you take a step back and make sure that she truly understands what it means to lie. And that was, I was so grateful to him for saying that, because I made up a game… I’m, I don’t know if other people have played it… but True or Not True. And we’d lay in bed at night and I’d say, your shirt is red: true or not true? And then it would be her turn. Well it turned out, she had a real fuzzy view of what lying was. And so even though I knew that she was being sinful in her response to me when I was disciplining her, I… she didn’t quite get the concept of the lying. And so the point is that even if your child is not ready to meet the standard, you don’t just leave them there. You don’t just say, oh well, she has Down’s syndrome, she doesn’t understand, what can we do? You make progress toward the standard. You make baby steps toward helping your child get a little bit closer to that understanding.

Jenn: I love that. It reminds me of the verse about that God remembers our frame. Like we remember their frame. And every kid’s frame is different. And that doesn’t excuse them, you know, it doesn’t excuse sin. But it does mean that training might look different.

Sara: right. It gets broken down into many more steps. So when Amelia was in feeding therapy, because she couldn’t, she was tube fed for a long time. And I was amazed at how many steps there were. It was like, move your tongue, move the food to the back of your mouth, close your lips – all to swallow, right? Which in a typical child is just a one step process that you don’t really have to teach them. But you do need to break things down into smaller steps, and it takes a lot more forethought and effort, but we’re still required to help them get there. We have to have a vision for them, too, and not just say, you know, que sera.

Melissa: you’ve mentioned Scripture a couple of times. Like you’ve got these verses memorized, and I’m sure you bathe your children in those. And I know you said at the beginning of the conversation, speaking Scripture over your kids and to your kids and just filling your home with that, with God’s Word, the living Words! How do you, how do you incorporate that, and how do you bring your children… how do you pull them into that, especially if there are different cognitive levels between the children? How do you pull them into that speaking and conversing with God’s Word?

Sara: so I started by just writing down verses that I liked. We read Proverbs every morning… not every morning, that’s the goal – the goal is every morning… and so I’d write down phrases that I wanted to incorporate into our home, and I just started saying them throughout the day. And then in Morning Time we do mottos, and so I put some of them as mottos and taught them to the kids. Like, he who is faithful with little will be faithful with much. I had them say that like (quieter) he who is faithful with little (louder) will be faithful with much! You know, that just making it fun for them. To get it into their heads, especially for the littlest one. And so we just have things like, let another praise you and not your own mouth. And I invite my kids to say these things to me as well, and they do. [laughter] So it’s like, wow, this cooking is amazing tonight, and they’ll be like, Moooooom, and I’ll be like, oh you’re right, thank you. [laughter] You know, so, it’s casual. It’s not this like, I you know, the Lord said, thou shalt let another praise thee… You know, not that.

Melissa: well you’re not even, you’re not even – at least in this conversation – you’re not hammering the Scripture reference. You’re literally just…

Sara: no, I don’t worry about that.

Melissa: using it as a motto. Right?

Sara: yes.

Melissa: I mean, if they want to look it up, I mean, they can look it up, right? There’s an app for that. [laughter]

Sara: right, exactly. It’s pretty much like it’s Proverbs something, I don’t know. That’s what we say.

Melissa: right, I love that.

Sara: we also do, it’s glory to overlook an offense. You know that goes along with, let love cover it. We’re just, hey it’s glory; think about the things in life that bring glory to people, and God says this is glorious. And guess what? We get to practice this all the time! So just presenting it in a, as a positive, not just overlook it, overlook it – but no, guess what? This is going somewhere, this is doing something, it’s glory if you’re overlooking the fact that your, you know, your brother nudged you too hard. Or whatever the case may be. And we say, he who puts on his armor should not brag as he who takes off his armor – that’s one of my favorites as well. Yeah, that’s a fun one. And also, like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says I’m only joking.

Jenn: mmm, that’s a good one.

Sara: yeah.

Jenn: it’s very applicable.

Sara: right, right! Or just things like, outdo one another in good works. You know, reminding them of that when we’re finishing up an argument and having reconciliation and being like, okay now, how can you outdo one another in good works? What can you do for your, for your sibling now that you’ve made… they don’t always have to do this, this is just an occasional thing… but like, is there something kind that you can do, that they won’t ever know about? You know, something that you can do that you tell me you did but we don’t tell your sibling that you did. So those practicing things.

Melissa: so do you work on Scripture memory as well, or is it sort of the mottos that are the most habit-forming for your family?

Sara: we do, we do longer Scripture memory as well as part of our Morning Time. We memorize, we memorized Psalm 97 last year, and we did hand motions to it. I think moving the body really helps with that. And I’ve put a bunch of Scripture to songs, just like two or three verse. So it’s not just the one verse memorization but it’s not quite the whole chapter. And we did that a lot when they were little. They, they, and now we review it.

Melissa: it sticks, doesn’t it?

Sara: yeah, and we seemed to have more time for it when they were little as well. They were at my elbow a lot more when they were little, and so it was more conversational and it was more, you know, we’d be cleaning up the toys and I’d just start singing the Scripture verse that we were memorizing and they’d sing right along. Now they’ve got more independent work, and that’s a little harder to do. And me singing, you know, in the grocery store is not quite as welcome as it used to be. [laughter] So it’s kind of a bummer.

Melissa: they are so much more easily embarrassed, it’s actually kind of fun.

Sara: yeah! [laughter]

Melissa: so we’re talking about Scripture and incorporating memory, memory work, of all these different sizes. Right? The motto, the couple of verses, and then whole chapter. All those different things. And it sounds like you’ve been doing it for a long time, and I’ve been doing it for a long time. Like we’ve, we’ve been homeschooling and doing it pretty much the same way for, I don’t know, how old is… well, like, you know, at least a decade. So if someone isn’t used to doing that, what would you say would be like your top tip for how to get started with that? Like, just do it?! [laughter]

Sara: I mean, sort of. I would, I would start with you doing it, with the Proverbs and the little things. Being faithful with those little things. Doing it even though it feels awkward. And then you know, if your kids are older, you can assign memory work. You can do it together. You know, separately if they’re older, but together; you know separately you memorize it but you come together and you say, how are you doing on it? Okay, my turn to try it, your turn to try it. During Morning Time, you can practice. But start somewhere. If it’s really intimidating, then start with a verse instead of a chapter. And work your way up. That’s, that’s what I would do. And picking things that are meaningful to you, that you really want to memorize. Don’t, don’t just find some list somewhere that someone else says are great verses. But do something that you are motivated to memorize and you want to. And I also would be really careful about… if you’re just starting this, saying, okay, we have a problem with our tongue, so we’re gonna memorize the passage in James about the tongue. I would start with something that’s more neutral. If you’ve been doing it for a long time, sure, that’s no big deal. But when you’re first starting out, just start with something that is, like Psalm 23 or Psalm 100 or Psalm 97. You know, just start with something that is not disciplinary.

Jenn: that makes sense. Along similar lines in terms of like getting, getting started with something. So say your kids are no longer in the little years, they’re maybe in that like six to twelve range, and you kind of realize like, we’re really off the rails with some of this stuff. Like you haven’t been really requiring, you know, obedience or you haven’t really been practicing with them, or you know, the training hasn’t, I don’t know. You just realize you don’t have some of these habits in place. What would be a good place to start, do you think?

Sara: I think the first thing you’d have to do is apologize to your children. Tell them that you should have been disciplining them and you weren’t. Ask their forgiveness. They might kind of look at each other like, whaaaaaaat’s gonna happen. [laughter] And then tell them very explicitly what you’re going to do. Because now they’re old enough that it’s gonna feel really unfair if you just come in there and drop the hammer on things that they’ve been getting away with for years and years. So tell them, okay. And you’ll have to take a step back, so with the grocery store example, if your six to twelve year olds are unruly in the grocery story, then you’re gonna have to talk before you go, and make short trips first so that you can celebrate successes and evaluate at the end. Like, hey, that was really great. There was the one little thing about you still begging for sugary cereal or whatever, so next time let’s make sure we tighten that up. You know. You’re treating them a little bit more like adults, but you’re still training them in those habits.

Melissa: yeah, and I think the obedience game when they’re little is so great. And my fresh three year old… I need to practice the obedience game a little more. So occasionally I will have the wherewithal to say, okay, put your hands on your head; okay, touch your nose; okay, spin around; now do a somersault! Right? And we make it into a game, and we see how quickly he will follow through with what I’m asking him to do. And then I’ll start saying, like, okay, now go put this in the garbage. Right? And making it actually applicable. And I have wondered how to translate that into practicing with an older child? [laughter] And yet I know we don’t need to play the obedience game, we need to have these conversations. So I think it translates into not the obedience game but it translates into having conversations of, this is what this would look like when I say, make sure you ask before you, you know, get on the computer. Or make sure that you ask before you start using the stove or the oven. My nine year old has started using the stove occasionally without asking; I’m like, you can use the stove, that’s great you want to cook, but let’s be in the habit of at least letting Mom know. Because there is a three year old running around, and if I don’t know the stove is on, I might not be thinking, let’s make sure the three year old doesn’t, you know, cause a problem because the stove is on and Mom doesn’t realize it. So do you have any tips on how to translate into the older kids, having those conversations, whereas when they’re younger it would be more making a game out of it? But when they’re younger, what does that look like? What’s your experience been?

Sara: if you haven’t played the obedience game from the time they were three, I think you do have to give them a little bit of a runway. So like with the stove, if I were starting that as a skill, I would say, okay, this week, I’m gonna keep reminding you and then if you find yourself reminding the child a lot, then I’d say, all right, starting on Monday there’s gonna be a consequence for that. So okay, so you just turned on the stove and we’re just gonna turn it off now and I’m gonna remind you. But starting Monday there will be a consequence if you do this again. So you know practicing with them in that way as opposed to, hey, go practice turning on the oven and turning… go practice asking Mommy. You know, obviously we’re not gonna do that. But we are going to give them a little bit of practice time, and make them very aware of what we’re doing. On Monday there will be a consequence. And then being really consistent about that when that time comes.

Melissa: consistency. Yes.

Sara: and I don’t, I wouldn’t discount roleplay for older children either. It’s just in a more casual environment, and it’s more of a, well what would you say if that happened? And less of a, let’s act it out. Although, you know, there’s a place for that too, depending on, on your kids’ personalities.

Melissa: yes.

Jenn: I think a part of this, too, maybe for somebody getting started, and even not just for someone getting started… I need to be reminded of this myself a lot. That to see this habit training and especially some of these habits as just part of our job as parents. Like I think it’s especially as a homeschool mom sometimes it’s really easy for me to just get in this zone of, this is our job, this is what we do, we’re doing school. And everything else is extraneous. Not literally, but you know it could be easy to drift into that a little bit. And seeing some of this training stuff as almost interrupting the real work rather than like a large part of our real work. Like this is part of their education, this is in some ways at the heart of discipleship. Like learning how to live life as a Christian.

Sara: yeah, another way that we can bring along older children is to model things for them. So I have plenty of opportunities to show my children how to repent. The other day we were in the car and we were running late, and we were, I was late to pick up my son, and I couldn’t text him, he doesn’t have a phone… or no, it was my daughter. Anyway, and then there was a train. And I like, Lord! Why is there a train? Oh no! And then I had the opportunity to say, okay Lord, this train, You ordained it, it is for Your glory, it is for our good, thank You for the train. And I just said it out loud because I’m fighting sin in my own heart to grumble against God and be like, even though it’s my fault that I left late, Lord, You knew this was going to happen! Couldn’t You have cleared the train? And you know, instead modeling for them, yes, they can see that that’s the pull on me, is toward being frustrated and then I’m, I’m very actively cutting it out. And so doing that stuff out loud, older kids pay attention to that.

Melissa: yes.

Sara: and when I hear my kids saying the words that I’ve used, obviously, that’s discipleship. Right? You’re saying, come along, be as I am. Well that’s, I’d better, I better be modeling good things. But it’s along the road. Because I don’t have this mastered, you know, so it’s… and probably that’s a good thing… because they need to see the repentance as well.

Jenn: mhmm, yeah. Especially the repentance as a habit. I think the repentance as a habit is huge. I mean, some days I think, and these are on our, not our best days, I think, well, if my kids learned nothing else today, they learned how to repent. Because Mom did it a ton today, because Mom needed to do it a ton. And you know on one hand, it can be tempting to be discouraged on those days, but them the good that I think God can bring from it is that, well, they got to see a lot of repentance modeled.

Sara: right? Yeah.

Melissa: how would you describe the relationship between discipleship and habit training? Because when I think of the word habit, or the phrase habit training, I tend to think of, okay, these are the, these are the almost like the orthopraxy – right, like the way that we live out the theology behind it; and then the discipleship is more like the orthodoxy – the theology of that. But I don’t know if that’s… is that accurate? Is that inaccurate? What’s your take on that relationship between discipleship and habits? Is it the same? Is it two different things that work together?

Sara: I think of the habits as you know Charlotte Mason talks about the rails. They’re things that sort of keep you on track when you are just kind of humming along. They’re those things that keep you in, keep you on that path, they’re the things that remind you to do the discipleship, you know. If you’re in the habit of memorizing Scripture, well then, the Scripture is gonna remind you of the confession, which is gonna remind you to tell your children about it. You know, it all kind of works together. And so those habits just reinforce what you’re trying to do on a daily basis and help you to plan for it a little bit. So that it, it’s not, if you don’t plan for it, it won’t happen.

Melissa: what about the habit of devotions, prayer, Bible reading? How do you pull your kids into that by conversation, by example, Morning Time. Those sort of things. How are you encouraging your kids to jump into and embrace those habits?

Sara: we have family devotions at night that my husband leads, and then we do Morning Time where we read the Bible and that’s when we memorize Scripture and things like that. This summer we started, I heard on the What Have You podcast that they were, they had a texting group when they finished their reading. And so with you…

Melissa: for the To The Word Bible reading maybe?

Sara: yes, for the…

Melissa: for the Bible Reading Challenge?

Sara: yes, and so our family is doing that this summer. And my kids are just reading the New Testament part, not the Psalms and Proverbs just to make it a little shorter. And so I said, everyone send a chicken by text when you’re done reading. And so I just sent a little chicken emoji and then my son’s taken great creative license, and you know, taken a picture of himself and drawn a beak on it. And you know, they send, the have devices that have no internet, they can only message with us. But it’s been really fun. My husband is normally the first one to send an emoji first thing in the morning, and the kids don’t see him reading his Bible because he’s up before them. And so that’s been really cool because they’ve gotten to see that he’s reading every day, and it reminds you throughout the day to read. So that’s just been a fun little way that we’ve encouraged reading this summer.

Melissa: I love that! Because yes, that idea of… well, if we’re doing Bible reading before the kids are up, we’re not doing it out with them, you know, how do they know that Mom or Dad have a private devotional life? That’s, I love that.

Sara: yeah. Yeah, and it’s on our phones a lot too. So if my kids walk in and I’m reading the Bible on my phone, I’m really tempted to be like, it’s the Bible! It, it’s the Bible! It’s not Facebook this time, guys, it’s the Bible! [laughter]

Melissa: I hear you.

Sara: but that doesn’t feel quite right.

Jenn: audio helps with that, so they can hear…

Sara: yeah, right?

Jenn: that’s what we have going on a lot. [laughter]

Melissa: what are some of your favorite resources for either getting ideas or sharing experiences? Are there books or blogs or podcasts that are sort of your natural go-tos?

Sara: yeah, I love – there’s a sermon series called Loving the Little Ones by Doug Wilson. It’s a four part series that’s on YouTube. That was so formative for Eric and I as we, as we set up our home. And setting it up as a joyful garden, while having high standards. It seemed that everyone in society was either loose and oh forget the standards but we’ll be super loving and nurturing but no standards. Or high standards but don’t pour on too much affection because oh you’ll spoil them. And so this was a great, and I think very biblical, way to look at parenting. I also like Saturation Love, it’s an article by Jim Wilson. I think a lot of people who are on that side of all-discipline-no-affection think they’re doing the right thing, but if you don’t have that basis of love and affection, it’s not gonna be effective. And then I like stories for kids, when we’re talking about pulling toward a vision. So the Wise Woman by George MacDonald is a great book for little girls. And they see it, you don’t have to say anything, you just read it. And the same thing with The Princess and Curdie, particularly for little boys. That’s one of the best little boys in literature. Wonderful. And so I love reading good stories like that. The What Have You podcast – I really like that. I think I pick up things that they don’t realize they’re dropping. You know, as they just kind of along the way mention something that they did with their kids or their family, and I’m like, ooh, okay. But that, that podcast is always driving me to take a closer look at myself and repent of things that I didn’t even realize were lurking. But the minute they say them, I’m like, oooooh that’s me. [laughter] So really.

Melissa: it’s a lot, it’s conviction just slathered in laughter.

Sara: yes!

Jenn: yes.

Sara: yes, which is kind of how I want to disciple my kids, right? [laughter]

Jenn: that’s a good motto, it’s a good mom motto. [laughter]

Sara: work toward the standard, but we’re doing it joyfully and with lots of laughter.

Melissa: yeah. What did you love about the Paideia Southeast event on Saturday? What were like, if you could say three highlights of something, what were the top three?

Sara: I love the atmosphere that Jenn and Rebecca created. They just, it was lovely. Flowers and good food and welcoming. I mean, Jenn is so good at hospitality. So and they had book tables for people to, to peruse and to get ideas. They made sure to greet everyone. And it was just a really lovely atmosphere. I loved the panel discussion. There were so many women in so many different walks of life sharing their ideas. And then I loved the singing. Everybody sang together a few hymns before we got started, and that was really sweet. So it was just a lovely, encouraging – encouraging time. But then also had lots of good ideas to take into the school year, so.

Melissa: I love it. Well thanks for sharing snippets from that for someone like me three thousand miles away, where I wish I could’ve been there. So this just encourages me and sets me up for getting back with my kids and talking about habits, and taking atmosphere and beauty and song into motherhood too, right? Not just when the moms are together but how can we translate that into our mothering and our homeschooling, our homemaking? That’s just, that right there is another little bit of conviction. So thanks for that. Thanks for taking the time to hop on and chat. And Jenn, it’s always fun to have conversations with you, so let’s do it again soon.

Jenn: yes. I would love that.

Melissa: yay, thank you!

Sara: thank you so much.

Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more encouragement and conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for encouragement and ideas about raising your children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord. Please join me next time for another paideia conversation, and in the meantime, peace be with you.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 14

Here at Paideia Conversations, we are continuing the conversation about protecting our children in this postmodern era where the age of technology is everywhere we look… bringing the entire world into our homes and presenting it to the eyes & ears of those most precious to us. How do we pursue wisdom in light of this? Melissa Cummings talks today with Chris McKenna from ProtectYoungEyes.com to ask him that very question. Listen in as they discuss the 5 layers of protection, 10 before 10, what kind of devices and filters are recommended, and how to find both accountability and encouragement in the balancing of parenthood, childhood, and technology in 2022. And while we didn’t actually mention it in the podcast, you might want to check out Childhood 2.0 to see Chris McKenna in a film that goes really deep really fast about these topics. This is a valuable conversation and an important topic. This is absolutely an aspect of the paideia of the Lord, so let’s delve right in!

Resources and Links:

Protect Young Eyes

Covenant Eyes

Bark

Gabb phones

CleanBrowsing

The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen

TRANSCRIPT

Melissa: Hello and welcome to Paideia Conversations where we dialogue about all things paideia. I am your host, Melissa Cummings, from Paideia Northwest. This is where you can listen in as Christian mamas discuss our purpose to raise our children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord — His paideia.

Joining me today for this paideia conversation is Chris McKenna from Protect Young Eyes. I’ve shared some of the work from Protect Young Eyes with Paideia Northwest on Instagram before, and they sponsored some tickets for last year’s Paideia Northwest event. And I’ve just been really encouraged and blessed by the work that Protect Young Eyes does, and specifically by the perspective that Chris McKenna shares in his Instagram stories and online in their emails, and also in the app. I have shared some of their Protect Young Eyes app with my teenager, and it’s really sparked some really great conversations. And it’s just been a blessing to us. Also, as we continue to just discuss the idea of protecting our kids and bringing them up in the paideia of the Lord in this technological age in this postmodern era, these are conversations that we need to have. We need to pursue these topics. And people like Chris McKenna, and Greta Eskridge before, they are unafraid and unashamed to talk about hard topics and to help give parents like me tools for pursuing these things with my own children. So I’m delighted to welcome Chris today to the podcast, and I’m delighted to share him and Protect Young Eyes with all of you listeners today.

Melissa: I do, I want to tell you like on the record or off the record… that last evening… my oldest is fourteen… and last night he was asking me you know, what’s the plan for tomorrow, Mom? And I told him, oh well, I think I’m going to be doing a Zoom conversation with Mr. McKenna from Protect Young Eyes. And he was like, wait a second, I’ve heard of that, right? And I said, yeah, I’ve talked about it before. And so he was like, well do you have the app? And I said, well, I’ve looked at it but I deleted it because I read it, but I never showed him. And so he asked – it was like ten o’clock, and he said, well Mom, can you show me the app? So we downloaded it again and we were looking at all the things, and he was just really encouraged by the work that you’re doing. So he’s like, oh I can’t wait to hear you know what the conversation is like. In fact, I asked him, well, do you want to like ask him questions? And he was like, oh, I would have a lot of questions. [laughter]

Chris: that is so mature. My goodness, I’m impressed.

Melissa: yeah, so anyway. He was excited to hear about the work that you do as well. Although I told him that Covenant Eyes is where you get your, you know, your paycheck.

Chris: it is. [laughter]

Melissa: Which he’d also heard of that one.

Chris: yes, yes. That’s kind of my… yeah it’s, they’re both, you know they work well together. Good.

Melissa: would you just briefly do a quick intro of yourself and your work?

Chris: hey, yeah, so Chris McKenna, founder of Protect Young Eyes. It’s a website that I started probably, I guess it was May of 2015. I was right in the midst of. Well, I was in junior high ministry. I mean, the whole story is the Lord called me out of business into ministry. I was twelve years as a consultant with Ernst & Young. Got then called into middle school ministry from 2009 to 2016, the rise of portable internet, right? I got to witness technology finding its way into the lives of kids – junior high in particular, just my favorite age group, that sixth through eighth grade timeframe where they’re so vulnerable and yet still kids and so open to teaching. Which is when exactly we’re dropping all of this insanely intelligent technology into their lives and making it complicated. So I had parents with questions. So my consulting hat was like, hey here’s a problem, let’s solve this. And so I started the website really just intending to educate. That led to a lot of different opportunities I didn’t expect. And you know, from there, Covid changed quite a bit. Because we were in person, on the road, kind of organization. There was a group of us doing talks, we had a presentation team. That of course went away, we built an app instead during Covid to try to scale. And now we’re ramping back up instead. I know saying “today,” I’m not sure, you know listeners, when you hear this. But just know, the day that I recorded this I did a four hour training to build up my speaking team again. We’re now five of us that are doing hundreds of talks in the next school year again as places are opening back up. And I’m really excited about that. All over the country, from Hawaii to Alaska to the East coast, so it’s really opened back up. And we’re excited to be able to go back into the schools and churches, and we’re really excited just to educate again. So that’s who we are. And just love standing in that gap between you know amazing families who truly want their kids to use technology, to be protected, and you know tech organizations and devices that truly, truly, Melissa, do not are about the safety and protection of our children. Our children are a data point for them, they are marketing possibility for them, they are a dollar sign, and they mean nothing to them. So if we are going to protect them from the places that are unhealthy for them, that are hurtful, then that’s going to be on us. Because the devices do not come with our kids in mind. And that’s the biggest problem. So that’s who we are.

Melissa: you’re also a dad.

Chris: I am!

Melissa: so you have that parental perspective on things. And your kids are old enough to be involved in tech, right? What’s your age range of kids currently?

Chris: yeah, so I’ve got a… a picture, I know those listening won’t be able to see that I just pointed to a picture behind me here too Melissa, but yeah. We have four kiddos. My daughter Lauren is seventeen going into her senior year. And then I have twin boys, Cole and Grant, who are twelve and are going into seventh and sixth grade respectively. And then Blake is ten, soon to be eleven, and he’s going into fifth grade. So we’ll have fifth, sixth, seventh, and then twelve grade. My daughter is the only one who has anything “smart.” She has an iPhone that she got when she turned fifteen. My son Cole, he has a Gabb watch that he uses from time to time, which I love, because it has what he needs and it doesn’t have you know all the other baggage. It’s talk, text, GPS. And if he and Blake want to ride their bikes up to the speedway to get a slushie which is about you know four miles, or I guess four miles round trip, but two miles down the road, it’s great, I got the app, I can see where’s he’s at. And that’s about it other than you know what they use here in the house to watch YouTube on a tablet or use the ChromeBook for looking up you know different things. But yeah, we are, as we sometimes say, we are a pro-tech, pro-kid, protect organization. There’s a balance there, right, of? If we use maybe a Scriptural reference, it’s being in tech but not of tech or however it goes, right? [laughter] You know, we could play that out the same way. We want to embrace the good in it but definitely respect the life-altering power that it also can have if not used with diligence and with almost a sense of respect. Not because of I want to be like you, but because if I don’t defend myself against you, you could do me harm kind of respect. It’s almost like how you respect the power of a lion on the other side of the cage at a zoo. It’s like, I don’t want to hang out with you, I need to keep you over here, and understand that there’s danger. So.

Melissa: yeah. That’s one thing that my fourteen year old was asking me last night when I was talking to him about Protect Young Eyes. So he said, okay, we’re talking about protection and technology, but he said, what is it you want to protect us from? And I thought, you know, that’s a really good question to ask Mr. McKenna. What is it that we need to protect our children from?

Chris: so I would love to have your son listen to this. You know Melissa, when you and I were growing up, and I’m not sure you know age wise where we are, but let’s just say we grew up in a time probably both of us where the difference between the places in childhood that were helpful or okay or safe in my life back in the nineteen-eighties were different and very clearly separated from the parts of my world, my neighborhood, my community that were bad, harmful, and dangerous to me. They were things I had to go to if I were going to hurt myself or to do something dangerous. Or I needed a plan or I had to have a certain friend or I have to go to a certain house. In other words, there was a bit of intentionality that was necessary for most of my childhood. If I was going to do myself great harm or expose myself to something. So answering that question is twofold. It’s both situational and content related. And then when I would get to those places, there was content – be it sexualized content or violent content or content that was mature in nature that I could consume, but only after great effort to get there, to go to it. That is not the world that our amazing children live in anymore. We live in a mixed environment, mixed content world where all of the devices that we give our children that are intended to be used for good, and helpful, and God-honoring purposes – be it a ChromeBook for school or an iPhone to stay in touch, they also within that device have the same power to radically and at times almost permanently change the trajectory of a human being’s life. We think of the amount of evil that can take place in a digital device… it’s almost bottomless. And I’ve seen in my work and my time and exploration and research of… just as soon as I think I’ve seen the bottom of the pit of human depravity, I find that there’s another step lower on the ladder. And I experience something or see something and just go, my gosh, what have we built? And I know that ninety-nine percent of kids aren’t spending intentional time in those places. But at the end of the day, I’ve put those places in their pocket. And have just hoped and prayed that I’ve done enough that they don’t go there. And as a guy over twelve years as a consultant whose job it was to help large businesses all over the world mitigate business risk, I see everything through the eyes of risk mitigation whether it’s professional or parenting. I can’t bubble wrap my kids from the risk of the world nor would I want to because it wouldn’t prepare them for the fact that in this world you will have trouble, right? There’s tough things in this world, and I want them to be resilient and prepared to deal with people who just aren’t nice. Right? But there is an egregious harm that I will protect my children from at all costs. And it used to be very obvious where that egregious harm could take place, and that’s just not the case anymore. So I’m – I look at technology and I look at the devices and I look at the power in what I consider to be a super computer – this iPhone! It could land a hundred million Apollo 13 spacecrafts on the moon simultaneously, right? And I put that into the hands of my seventeen year old and go – amazing, beautiful daughter of mine, I love you, but I am –with shaking and trembling- placing this power in your hands, and I need you to work with me on this, because what dad… what kind of father would I be if I didn’t stay involved and if I wasn’t intentional about how you would handle this power? Because I’m letting a hundred million people into your life and that scares me. Right? So, I think parenting is different today. It has to be. And childhood is different today. It’s, it’s more difficult for amazing kiddos like your son or my daughter to toe that very thin line between the places that are good and the places that are harmful. It’s a thinner spot than the distance that existed in our childhood, if that makes sense.

Melissa: yeah. Well, and stumbling upon something accidentally, um, you know – someone who back in 1989 was in the neighbor’s house, and you know, gave someone a magazine that belonged to their dad – that definitely shapes a trajectory, but there… there was some intentionality to that, right?

Chris: yes.

Melissa: then with my son, I… he, you know, he’ll be doing what he’s allowed to do on the laptop right there in the family area, and all of a sudden, you know, an ad will pop up. And he’ll just say, oh man, Mom, I should not have seen that. That was not appropriate.

Chris: yeah.

Melissa: and he said, I didn’t try to look at that. And I’m like, I know!

Chris: I know, buddy. I know, buddy. And I love that his sensitivity around that is so pure and good and right. That’s amazing. And you know, that’s certainly something that we teach kids, you know, from K through 8th. You know, listen to that little radar, that little funny feeling in your belly that’s telling you something’s not okay. Ignore that little voice in your head that’s saying you’re gonna get in trouble, you can’t tell anybody. Listen, that’s a liar. I want you to listen to that little radar, that Holy Spirit radar that’s saying something’s not quite right here. And put it down and tell someone who has tools for that. To listen to that feeling, to listen to that little instinct. And I think kids, we maybe undersell them sometimes. I think a lot of kids know… they know where the, you know, what it feels like to be in the bad places. And because the “bad places” – and we could probably have, you know, different discussions around how we define bad, but I’m guessing that most of your audience would align with me in looking, say, to Scripture or just other, um, you know, solid references to know the difference between what’s good and bad, that which is helpful to our lives, things that are pure and good and honorable and praiseworthy and positive versus things that aren’t, right? And I think a lot of our kids, they know that difference too. I see it when I talk to them, where they know when I say to them, hey, third graders… I love third grade… I’ll say to them, hey guys, you know when you’re watching YouTube, is it really easy to see videos that you know aren’t good for you? And all of them just start nodding their heads. Like they know! Right? So it’s then giving them permission to respond to that, because I’ll say to them… I’ll say this as many times as I can… you know what, when that happens, that’s not your fault. That’s not your fault. Your first instinct is gonna be to be ashamed of that and I’m here to tell you that’s a liar. That is not your fault. And instead, I’m so proud that you have a sense to know that’s not bad, so what do we… or that’s bad and that’s not where you should be. What do we do with that? Let’s do something about that. Let’s find some trusted adult. You know, helping them to harness that as a power instead of a shame that is almost automatic because of that nature of ours sometimes, right? So those are conversations I love having with kiddos. I sense that in what you describe about your son. And praising that in sight of them, and saying that I don’t like that that happened, but I love your sensitivity about it. And I want to encourage that, buddy, because the pop-ups only get worse. And I think that’s… you know, this discussion about what’s good and bad. Porn is an Old Testament issue, right? [laughter]

Melissa: nothing new under the sun!

Chris: this is… nothing new under the sun! It’s just that the depravity, like the types of pornography, the, the violence, the exploitation of babies and children – like the types of things that are possible to be discovered through a simple search today… you almost couldn’t even put your hands on it without being in illegal places when you and I were growing up! That you couldn’t even get access to as a child! And so I think that’s the part that I want to empower parents with to create awareness. Not to create fear. I don’t want that to make us be paralyzed and not know what to do. No, no. If that’s your reality, now what can we do? And that’s where Protect Young Eyes loves to come in and say, okay, Mom, Dad, guardian, Grandma and Grandpa – you have digital superpowers, let’s do something about this and protect and prepare our kiddos for that world.

Melissa: yeah. I think that was something Greta Eskridge and I talked about last week, was you… prepare, protect, and pray I think were the three Ps…

Chris: that’s good, yeah.

Melissa: yeah, exactly. Now, I think you have the – with Protect Young Eyes, it’s five layers of protection, is that right?

Chris: yep, yep, we talk about the five layers of digital protection. Yes, good memory, good job.

Melissa: what are the… I feel like they all start with the same letter, and I can’t remember, is it C?

Chris: well, no, so there’s two different frameworks there that you’re referring to, which is awesome.

Melissa: okay.

Chris: we have the five layers. There’s a relational framework which is our digital framework, and those are five Cs. Then we have our more technical framework of how do we protect technically with five different layers, and those are the five layers. So what’s great is they fit together, because if you imagine a pyramid… so, imagine right now the, you know, the pyramids in Giza over in, you know, Egypt. A true pyramid. Imagine it has five horizontal layers in it, maybe each with a different color if that’s what you want. That bottom layer of that pyramid is the relationship. That’s our DigitalTrust framework, because everything technical sits on top of that. And the reason for that is, parents will ask me all the time: hey, my kid found a loophole, how do I close it? And I’ll say, well, wait a minute: before we try to fix the technical loophole, I always want to try to solve it first with the relational solution. There’s a heart issue here that your child feels it necessary to find a loophole, and they’re gonna find another one. So unless we get to the original side of why they found it and why you don’t feel equipped to talk about that, let’s solve that problem first. So that’s why the relationship has those five Cs, right? First we talk about Copy Me – are we modeling as moms and dads? Coplay – are we doing technology shoulder to shoulder, right? I want my kids to know that tech is a we activity, and not a me selfish activity, right, cuz one on one with the internet… whether, Melissa, it’s you or me, guy, girl, teen, whatever. We eventually all make a bad choice one on one. Those godlike algorithms are just too tough for us, so we need others involved. I want my kids to know what accountability looks like from a very young age. That’s Coplay. There’s Curiosity – that’s a parenting posture. I want us to be curious about why the kids do the things they do online. You learn a lot about kids just from their YouTube watch history. And then I want Conversations that are curious, so a ton of conversations. And the fifth one is Coaching. Not controlling but coaching. Because if you try to control them, they all become digital ninjas and they win. And so I want us to coach them through this. That’s the bottom of the five layers, and we build on top of that. Layer two which is the WiFi layer, that the router is the most important device in any home. Any home! And we talk about routers all the time. The Gryphon router is awesome. And then on top of that you build the layer of, um, device level controls, right? So because it’s not always connected to our router. You have smart devices that go places, or you have ChromeBooks that get used at a friend’s house now that are on that home’s WiFi network that maybe doesn’t have Gryphon, so what software is at that device layer? So layer two is a hardware deal, right, that router. But then layer three is a software deal with what are you choosing? Is it CovenantEyes, right? Is it Bark? Are you using Screentime from Apple? Are you using FamilyLink? Those kinds of things, right? And then the fourth layer there is what’s happening locationally. There are certain places where I just don’t want kids online, right? Buses, bathrooms, bedrooms, sleepovers, grandma and grandpa’s houses. They’re, you know usually a little less monitored because Grandma and Grandpa maybe don’t know quite as much. So I’m just, I get risk mitigation hat on. I’m mitigating risk differently in those five locations. That’s a layer of protection. I don’t want to put my kids as, what you often will hear, say in the Catholic churches – stay away from the near occasion of sin, right? Don’t put ourself where temptation is strong, and I think that at night, whether you’re fourteen or forty, when you’re bored in your bedroom with tech, that is the near occasion of sin. [laughter] And don’t be there! And then that top layer is the app layer. Meaning, TikTok, YouTube, SnapChat. What, if any, like in the case of SnapChat there’s not much. What, if any, app level controls exist? And it’s at the top and it’s the smallest point of the pyramid because they’re the weakest. So there’s a very intentional sequence in terms of strongest and most effective to necessary but less effective as you go up the pyramid. So that’s the meshing of those two frameworks at Protect Young Eyes after, you know, seven years and fifteen hundred presentations. Those are the sorts of things that seem to work.

Melissa: oh, I love that. It’s really logical and it’s really good, just visual picture. That’s great!

Chris: good!

Melissa: what about the… I also… I have this fourteen year old, and so he’s the one I have the most conversations with. Not only about tech because he’s into computer programming, and he’s trying to learn all kinds of graphic, like digital art kinds of things…

Chris: love it.

Melissa: but he’s the one I have most of these conversations with, but then I have a ten year old son – I also have nine year old daughter, and six and three year old sons, but sort of the older ones are the ones who, you know, love the tech the most and are ready for some of the harder conversations. But I have this ten year old, and I was thinking the other day, like, you have this “ten before ten,” um, catchphrase, right?

Chris: yeah.

Melissa: and so occasionally I’ve thought, oh I have a ten year old now. Have I had ten of these conversations with him? And I probably have, because I don’t actually keep track, we just have a [laughter] open conversational type of family. We homeschool, and so we’re just always talking about learning and growing and very curious, lots of endless questions… um, but, can you tell me – what’s that “ten before ten” thing about?

Chris: yeah, so it was inspired by my friend Ginny who runs a platform who maybe your audience would recognize called 1000 Hours Outside.

Melissa: oh yeah.

Chris: right? Yeah, so she’s awesome. She lives here in Michigan, a couple hours that way from me. And so the quantification of what she does is sticky. So I was like, how does that apply to my work? One day I was like, okay, ten before ten. I want, and you know, I’m a CPA by nature, so I love numbers. They just sort of help me make sense of the world as you can tell. Five layers and frameworks, and that’s just the way my brain works. And um, but I want ten conversations about pornography before age ten. Now, when I say that, automatically there’s this: oh my gosh! I don’t know how to have one of these talks let alone ten of them! And that’s a, that’s an okay thing to think. You’re not alone. A lot of people think that. But I think, and if you know, anybody here listening to this is on Instagram, there’s a reel that I created that’s called “That’s a Porn Talk.”

Melissa: mhmm.

Chris: and it dismantles the idea that a porn talk has to be some powerpoint presentation with research and graphics, and they’re sitting down and listening, and they applaud when you’re done, like that sort of thing. [laughter] That’s not what I’m talking about.

Melissa: right.

Chris: there is a wide list of things that qualify as a porn talk, without ever saying the word. And I think that’s the part that gets in the way mentally as a parent. You’re like oh gosh, I gotta say that word? No, no, no. What I’m more concerned with is, number one, that kids know what it is.

Melissa: mhmm.

Chris: and then nine times know what to do when they see it.

Melissa: yeah.

Chris: right? Because another reel, you know if people were to watch, um, is called “Practice Practice Practice.” Right? People can find these on our Instagram account. We put a ton of really, I hope, really helpful content out there. I’m always scheming about the next thing I can put out there on Instagram because 93% of our followers are amazing moms like you. The moms that are you know, I call them the chief technology officers of the house. That’s what you are, right? And so I want to equip the 93% of our followers that are Melissas with as much good content as possible.

Melissa: we appreciate that!

Chris: yeah. But I want them to be practiced, to know what to do, and to break through that little lying voice that in the moment is gonna convince them not to say anything. Because to tell a kid, hey if you see porn, talk to me – that’s almost meaningless in the heat of the moment. Because little, well not little, but pre adolescent and tween brains are highly tangible. They don’t do well in the abstract yet. You know this as a homeschool mom, right? That making it as tangible and as tactile as possible is gonna make it stickier in their brain. That abstract thinking develops as that prefrontal cortex finally starts rolling around there in the teen and early twenties. But before that make it as practical and hands on as possible. So I’m telling parents, hey, like roleplay this bad boy. Like, get in the van, go out in the road, pull into the driveway, walk in, and have them pretend they saw something and have them pretend tell you exactly what they would tell you what they did when you walk in the door. I know it sounds corny but I’m telling you it works. And it overcomes some of those neural-chemical barriers that in the moment of seeing porn are super powerful. And really disconnect all rational thinking. Because that rush of neurological activity just… there’s nothing happening in that prefrontal area to help them make wise decisions. But they can fall back on, oh I remember, like right now I’ve got to walk over, because I’ve walked in practice five times over, you know, last year. I need to walk over and now say something to my mom because that’s exactly what she’s taught me how to do it, or what to do. Right? So those are the sorts of things that I think are far more effective than having some in-depth, awkward conversation about pornography. [laughter] So.

Melissa: yeah. I love that. Well, and you know another thing. Well all of your catchphrases are obviously very sticky because they’re the ones that I remember. The whole “delay is the way…”

Chris: yeah. Good!

Melissa: so, my… I’m picking on my fourteen year old here… you know, he talks about, um… my fourteen year old talks about how when he’s sixteen he’s going to buy a care, he’s going to have, you know a job. Right now he works parttime during the summer, and I drive him, and so he doesn’t need to take a phone with him. But when he drives himself, you know, we’ve told him, yeah we’d like you to have some kind of accountability and safety measure in your pocket. So the question has come up, like, oh well, by the time he’s sixteen do we give him a straight up iPhone or is that the age where a Gabb phone is still appropriate? And I know there’s no, like, one blanket answer for every child and every family and every situation.

Chris: right.

Melissa: so how do you… how do you find wisdom in that? How do you recommend parents to walk wisely through that when we want him to make mistakes while he’s still at home? While we still have, you know, these eleven PM conversations without him being off at college yet. [chuckle]

Chris: you know what I would offer, as an answer to your question, Melissa? Is I would have the exact same conversation that you just had with me, with him.

Melissa: mmm.

Chris: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a parent come up to me and go, you know what I don’t know how to talk to my kid about this and this – this is what freaks me out about this thing, and I’m so afraid that if they have SnapChat or Instagram that someone that they don’t know is gonna talk to them, and they’ll send a picture they don’t know – help me with this, Chris, what do I do? And I’ll just sit for a minute and I’ll smile. And I’ll say, have you ever told them everything that you just told me?

Melissa: huh.

Chris: and they’re like, no! I’m like, all the things that you’re afraid of, all of the concerns that you have… what about inviting them into that? Because here’s what will happen when you do that. Number one, they’ll kind of go, okay, um, I understand where my mom’s coming from. It’s because she loves me, not because she’s a bad mama. Right? She has genuine concerns for me. Number two, any time you can invite a child into the solution and give them agency in that situation, that’s a part of the Coaching in the DigitalTrust framework. It automatically increases their buy-in into what you’re saying. It’s true for all of us, right? Think about marriage! [laughter] It’s always better when it’s their idea. [laughter] Right? Right? I could say something to Andrea like, you should do this, this, this, and this! That’s my wife. But if she comes up with it, even if it’s the same as what I said, it always goes better! [laughter] And it’s just the way we are, right? We want that agency, that ownership. And so those are things that I’ll say to parents. And I would invite you to have that same exact talk – hey, bud, you know, an iPhone might be right; here are some of the risks around it, here’s what I’m concerned about this. You know, here’s a Gabb phone. I understand that this maybe feels too juvenile for you. But at the same time, it’s not gonna provide some of these temptations as the iPhone. Here’s my tension as a parent. Here’s what I’m struggling with. What do you think?

Melissa: yeah.

Chris: and I think if you’ve had a lot of conversations along the way, and you, you know are open and honest. I think there’s a ton of power in that kind of conversation. You know what I mean?

Melissa: yeah, yeah. I like that you’re big into communication. Communicating with, you know, you – your job with parents, and schools and churches, but then also encouraging those parents to be communicating with their kids. So I must think that you’re big into – you know you say 93% of your followers are the moms…

Chris: yeah.

Melissa: then, I know I, I talk to my husband about… he’s never, he doesn’t have Instagram, so he doesn’t look at your stuff like I do. But I share it with him, you know. I’ll say hey, check out this reel or hey look, here’s Chris talking about something else. So he knows who you are even though he’s not on that social media platform. But having these conversations, um, as yeah, husband and wife, in wanting to move forward with our kids is also huge. Having that communication.

Chris: yeah, that alignment is big, because as parents it’s important… and Andrea and I have these conversations all the time… who would be best to have this conversation with Lauren? You know, sometimes it’s me, oftentimes it’s Andrea. You know. Kids, as you know, go through different phases of attachment with Mom or Dad, depending on phase of life or maybe gender, all those things. And those are really important cues for us as parents to pick up on. And to, to honor that, and to not feel intimidated by that, and um… yeah, I think that’s, especially with these topics which are so often topics of the heart, and who is in the best position to do that? Very seldom, I’ll offer this, I think it’s very seldom both at the same time. Because that can feel a lot like an inquisition to a child. And I want to be, you know, cautious of that. So you’re right. I think it just sort of depends on who is best positioned to do that. But being aligned, because, when and if the opportunity comes up to have to enforce something that consistency is really important. Or if you’ve got a kid who’s gonna kind of test that mom said versus Dad said, you know you do kind of need to be kind of on the same page for sure. So I’m glad you’re… there’s plenty of dads on Instagram too, but if not, and your husband isn’t, then I give you full permission to put your phone in front of his face and say, watch this – you gotta watch this. Because there’s a lot of power in that alignment.

Melissa: yeah, yeah.  My husband, speaking of husbands. You know, he had two questions. One of which is, how does a filter actually work? Like on the technical side, how does a filter filter the internet? How does that work in protecting our kids?

Chris: well it depends on the service, the filtering service that’s in place. So there are known domains – when I say domain, uh, like a website address, that top, you know, www dot whatever dot come. The www isn’t even really used much anymore. But for all, for us old people, we remember that version of the internet, right?

Melissa: right!

Chris: so there is a library, um, that when websites are registering, I’m just gonna explain it high term, you know, high level terms. Let’s just say there’s a mechanism by which many, not all, certainly not all, but many websites are categorized as either explicit or not. And there are other categorizations based on keywords used in the website on, is it related to gambling? Is it related to guns? Is it related to other categories? And there are services, say like the Gryphon router, where um sometimes there’s you know, the filter is on, and it’s leveraging what Google or Bing or DuckDuckGo, other search engines have done to recognize this categorization, typically those are just at the sexual or not sort of level. They’re less concerned about filtering out other types of content. That’s where a service comes into play, say like CleanBrowsing or even Bark or others. Where you have more granular categorizations of websites that they’re picking up on based on keywords and other things that if parents want to filter out, even like lingerie, or that kind of thing. So it’s very much on that technical side, what keywords are being used, and that categorization that those solutions are filtering in that way, so.

Melissa: so the other, the other question that my husband had was on the question of sort of screen addiction. So not necessarily relating to filtering particular content, but the idea of how do we protect our children – and again, I think it goes back to communication, right? Having these constant shoulder to shoulder experiences and conversations. But do you see a certain number of hours or is it just all about attitude? Is it only that pleasure screentime goes into too much time, because you know, what about, oh my kid has to watch YouTube videos for homeschool co op history stuff or [laughter] you know, how does… how do you encourage parents to walk with wisdom when it comes to that type of thing as well?

Chris: yeah, what constitutes screentime, right?

Melissa: right.

Chris: how do you categorize it? Is it junk food? Is it nutritious? It’s really hard to know these days. So I, in the McKenna house, do not keep track of hours, it’s too stressful, I can’t do it. It’s, I quit that a long time ago. So, but I’m also, you know, so there’s some non negotiables in that, right? So again, location matters. I’m trying to keep devices out of bedrooms. I’m trying to keep devices out of private, dark places. I’m trying to keep devices away from a certain proximity of bedtime so it’s a bit of a cleansing of the mind, right, a settling down. I’m trying to keep screens maybe away from a automatic sort of morning necessity of, hey, have you had breakfast, did you get dressed, did you brush your teeth yet? Let’s prepare our bodies before we just jump into a screen, right? So there’s just some routines around that. I want to keep screens in their place, instead of a priority. And that’s just some things as parenting that I’ve chosen to do instead. I am certainly focusing on patterns of behavior more holistically around, are they interactive with me? Will they… this is a big one… can I interrupt their screentime without eliciting anger?

Melissa: mhmm.

Chris: and I practice this one with my kids all the time. I love Cole, my twelve year old who walked in, he will tell you, most recently… I do this all the time where I’ll just randomly ask them to fill the dishwasher, I’ll randomly ask them to take the recycling out. No matter what they’re doing on a screen, if they don’t within a pretty quick three second window say, yep! and pause it and react to me, then I’ll take it away. You know, I’ll turn it so they, they’ve, um, through practice and through trial and error, have learned that that’s not… my initial reaction to that isn’t anger, it’s diverting it towards help knowing that when I help Dad’s next response is almost always, go ahead and keep playing. Right? So it, there’s a training… you gotta remember that these little brains, they don’t stand a chance against these screens. And so when a kid is starting to exhibit certain, uh, negative or sort of attachments to the screen, it’s easy for us as parents to take that personally or pin it on them, that they’ve done something wrong. And I want to, I want to get rid of that way of thinking. Because if we were twelve, we would be reacting the exact same way if that sort of glow and, you know, constant stream of entertainment was in front of us, we would have done the exact same thing. This is not a me versus kid thing. This is a screen versus the brain thing.

Melissa: mhmm.

Chris: and I think that depersonalizes it a little bit from me getting angry at their response, and instead seeing it as an opportunity to go, all right, bud – boy, when I interrupted that game, dude, you got ticked! So let’s talk about that. Why did that happen? You know, I’m gonna, I’m gonna take it away for a little while because, you know, if I was doing something that made me a bad dad, wouldn’t you say, Dad, that needs to get put away? Yeah. So that’s what I’m doing. Cuz I’m trying to be a good father to you. But let’s think about what just happened, okay? You threw that controller, or you yelled at your brother, all right? That wasn’t the right reaction. But it’s something that I’m not mad at you for. Because that’s the power this stuff has over us. So I’m not gonna punish you for it, right? But the next time I interrupt that game to have you do something, I want you to react differently. And when you do, and you get the thing done, I’ll probably say, go ahead and pick it back up, man. Right? Because this is training. And so I want that to maybe shape the way that we respond to screen time a little bit. Look for those cues. Some kids can’t handle it. I mean, just in the way that God has put them together, they have a sensitivity to their dopamine reward system that is ten times greater. It can even be in the same family, we’re like my gosh, this kid reacts this way and this kid reacts this way. That’s just us recognizing those things as parents and, you know, tailoring their consumption of screens accordingly. And so those are just some things that I tend to focus on when it comes to screen time. Instead of…

Melissa: physiologically speaking, I mean, we are… we are chemical, physiological, created beings…

Chris: we are!

Melissa: and that’s complicating in some sense.

Chris: well, and I want parents to hear that there isn’t this magic line that if you’ve decided that thirty minutes is okay that now you’re a bad parent at thirty-one. Like there’s, I want there to be a freedom in that too for moms who, let’s admit, because I know many of you that guilt is always right around the corner, right? That there’s nothing that says that if your kid gets thirty-one minutes that you’ve created this sort of fictitious good parent bad parent boundary with screen time. Like that’s the stuff I just want to get rid of, because that’s toxic to us as parents too. And just change that mindset. So it’s, it’s good I think for both of us to switch that up a little bit.

Melissa: well yeah, that’s what my kids are doing right now so that I could have a quiet conversation – is, they’re watching a Magic School Bus. The younger ones, watching a Magic School Bus.

Chris: there you go.

Melissa: you know, we have to realize that screens aren’t inherently bad. It’s how we use them and how we walk relationally with our kids through that.

Chris: yep.

Melissa: my fourteen year old last night said, how can you prove to me that my brain is effected by screens? And I told him I had just read a book called The Teenage Brain, and it did not come from a Christian worldview, so it was, you know, a chew and spit, grain of salt kind of thing. But it was very convincing in the physiological brain development of adolescents, teens, even you know young adults. And I said, I don’t know, I can’t regurgitate that information for you right now, but trust me, I know it really does.

Chris: yeah, we are. We’re integrated beings. Mind, body, and spirit. And that’s why I want us to, you know, protect those, those areas of our life. You know, you said something just a minute ago that I just, I just want to mention. Because I think there are a lot of things that maybe were true that are less true today, but a phrase like that technology isn’t inherently bad.

Melissa: mhmm.

Chris: that’s a phrase that is definitely worthy of discussion. Because I think that was probably true in the days when technology was something I consumed, as opposed to something that’s studied and consumed me.

Melissa: whoa.

Chris: and there’s a difference today with algorithms that are actively tailoring themselves to us that I would argue that our technology is less and less inherently neutral than it used to be. Physiologically for the exact reasons as it drills deeper and deeper into our brainstem, and our deep needs, that three parts of our brain that are asking three different questions of am I alive, am I loved, and am I thinking? As it drills deeper into eliciting those sort of, am I alive, say like heartrate, blood pressure kind of responses to what I’m seeing, it gets its hooks more and more into us that other ways that I think we could have conversations more scientifically is along those lines. To go, you know, there are engineers at companies, tech companies now that engineer products to elicit a physiological heartrate blood pressure response in you. Because that is the reptilian part of our brain, deep in our stem, and they know if they can do that and then attach a reward to get out of that, because your brain doesn’t like living in that state of stress… dude, they’ve got ya. Dude, they’ve got… I think those are good conversations that kids are fascinated by when you invite them into it.

Melissa: I’m fascinated by that! My mind is kind of like blown right now.

Chris: yeah, there you go.

Melissa: okay, you think, oh well, alcohol or um, I don’t know, sexuality, those things you know – is it a virtue, is it a vice? I’ve always sort of put, um, technology in that same kind of camp, but yeah the whole algorithm thing, you can’t get away from that.

Chris: yeah, so.

Melissa: crazy.

Chris: there you go, we’ll end on that, right?

Melissa: something to ponder with my husband, yeah. So as we sign off, can you rattle off three top tips?

Chris: yeah! Um, you know, again I would say whenever you have a technical issue you’re trying to overcome, some loophole something, try to solve it first with a relational solution, that conversation. Number two you would be, hug your router. Go hug it, love it, make it work for you. It can carry some of that burden technically that I think is so, so important. And then number three, I would say, if you think it’s hard being a parent in the digital age, it’s even harder being a kid. Keep that empathy high. It is a stressful, anxious, information overload time to be a child. And the things of the world that stress us out, whether it’s politics or war or pandemics – they see it and feel all of it, too, with much fewer, with fewer tools to process it. So I just want us to keep that empathy high for what it’s like to be a kid these days.

Melissa: yeah, yeah. Well thank you so much for taking the time to have a conversation with me, and to share these thoughts. I can’t wait for my, my kids, at least my two older ones, to jump in on this and listen in. We’ll have more conversations together.

Chris: sounds good. Yeah, you’re welcome.

Melissa: thank you so much. I’m really, really grateful we were able to make that work.

Chris: yeah, me too, Melissa. And for anybody out there who hears this, we love answering questions, we love tackling tough tech problems if you’re stumped on something. So just send us a message at our website at Protect Young Eyes dot com or a direct message through social media, and somebody will get back to you.

Melissa: and you do. You guys are quick. So all right, thank you, Chris.

Chris: you’re welcome! Bye bye.

Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more encouragement and conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for encouragement and ideas about raising your children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord. Please join me next time for another paideia conversation, and in the meantime, peace be with you.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 13

Join Melissa Cummings today in this nuanced conversation with Greta Eskridge about her passion for cultivating true connection with her children through adventure, and combatting the destruction of connection through the atrocity of pornography. This is a real life conversation between two real moms, and we hope you will find encouragement here to have big conversations with your kids. We also share lots of ideas for further reading if you need recommendations on this topic!

Resources and Links:

Protect Young Eyes

Adventuring Together by Greta Eskridge

100 Days of Adventure by Greta Eskridge

Gabb phones

GretaEskridge.com

@instagram.com/maandpamodern

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, Jr. by Kristen A. Jenson

Chasing Love by Sean McDowell

The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch

Habits of the Household by Justin Whitmel Earley

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Additional Recommended Resources:

The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson

Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality by Hillary Morgan Ferrer

Not If But When by John Perritt

TRANSCRIPT

Melissa: Hello and welcome to Paideia Conversations where we dialogue about all things paideia. I am your host, Melissa Cummings, from Paideia Northwest. This is where you can listen in as Christian mamas discuss our purpose to raise our children in the nurture, admonition, instruction, and discipline of the Lord — His paideia.

Joining me today is Greta Eskridge.

Melissa: Joining me today for this Paideia Conversation is Greta Eskridge. She is an author, a speaker, a blogger, and an adventurous homeschooling mama. And she is also the one behind the hashtag #gretafightsporn and that’s why I’ve asked her to join me today for this little conversation about a not to little topic. And we invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.

Madeleine l’Engle said, “Our responsibility to them is not to pretend that if we don’t look, evil will go away. But to give them weapons against it.”
Frederick Douglas said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
I honestly wouldn’t necessarily say it is easy to build strong children either. So to think that this is hard, to think that these are difficult topics, to think that this takes some stamina and a lot of groundbreaking work is pretty key.
Now, the reason that I wanted to broach this conversation is because I don’t think it’s something that a lot of people have recognized is so important until recently.
I know it’s something my husband and I are interested in as we’re raising our five kids for the glory of God, and we have four sons — we’re also a very tech oriented family. We own a tech business, a Bible app software company, and we have at least one son who wants to go into computer programming. He already does that. He’s only fourteen but he’s been doing computer programming for a couple of years. And we are definitely in the “Delay is the way” camp, as far as it comes to technology. And we are a low budget screen time family. We do a family movie once a week. The kids do the Worldle, they each take turns doing that on a fairly regular basis. But that’s really it! We have a spare phone, an old phone, we send with our teenager when he goes to work so that he can text me and let me know when to come pick him up. But he will be the first one to tell you that he’s not having his own phone until he has his own vehicle and a job where he drives himself and he would need that kind of technology in his pocket on a regular basis. So this is something that is new to us as parents, but I think this is something that is common to all of us as parents in this digital age. I think protecting our kids from pornography is important, I think hedging the time that our children spend on screens is important, and I think that as Christian parents we need to be willing to be a bit radical, to be different, to stand out. And so these are the questions I have. I want to know, what does it mean to protect kids from pornography? What does it mean to cultivate a healthy sexual culture in our home? What does it mean to protect them digitally? What does wisdom look like for a family who is definitely pro-technology, but we want to -even more than that- be pro-wisdom?
I read Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch about a year ago, and it had a lot of great stuff in it. But I feel like it’s the kind of book that I need to go back to and review maybe once a year.
I also just read Habits of the Household by Justin Whitmel Earley, and it had a whole section on screens and tech. That was wonderful. I highly recommend that book! Not just for the idea of tech or screens or pornography but for cultivating habits that reflect the actual values – the actual Christian values and the theology behind it… how do we build strong children, and how do we give them weapons against evil? What tools are at our disposal to walk our children through this strange new world of having the world right inside of our homes and access to all of these things right in our pockets? How do we walk with wisdom alongside of our children? So these are the questions that urged me to bring Greta Eskridge into the conversation, and then also Chris McKenna from Protect Young Eyes who will be joining us later. Protect Young Eyes is also… it’s a great website, I would suggest looking at that. I would suggest their app, the Protect Young Eyes app. And I am hoping to bring some kind of webinar or workshop with Greta Eskridge and Chris McKenna to the Paideia Northwest community sometime soon. Schedules are hard to coordinate when you’re in three different states and a couple different time zones. And we’re all busy parents who just do these sorts of things on the side. But I think it’s worth prioritizing these types of conversations and these types of events.

Melissa: so I’m super curious… because I first started following you on Instagram when… I don’t know, this was a few years ago… you would take me… you didn’t know you took me, but you would take me to the coast and you would go to the tide pools…

Greta: hmm, yes.

Melissa: and all that adventuring, right? So that’s how I fell in love with you and your kids. Because I grew up in the Santa Cruz kind of area, but now that I live in Northeastern Washington, you know, tidepools are a thing of the past. And so watching your videos was lifechanging for my kids. And so now we go to the Oregon coast once a year, and we go to tidepools. And I still think back to those days when I would show my kids, “look, look at these pictures! Ma And Pa Modern, they are up, let’s try to find some of these!” Anyhow. But then I started noticing this whole “Greta fights porn” thing, and I thought, well that’s not like tidepools.

Greta: like that’s weird! [laughter]

Melissa: yeah, like, what in the world? And I mean this was a few years ago. My oldest is fourteen, and so it’s kind of a, you know, it’s kind of a present conversation now. But at that point I didn’t ever think about it, I never thought that it should be a “now” kind of topic. And so following your GretaFightsPorn hashtag over time, I’ve kind of seen, it actually should be a “now” topic whenever “now” happens to be.

Greta: totally.

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Melissa: I don’t remember if it’s…, I think maybe it’s Chris McKenna from Protect Young Eyes who says “10 Before 10.”

Greta: yeah.

Melissa: so ten conversations about… is it pornography? Do you know? Is that what he says for 10 Before 10, or is that just…?

Greta: yeah, um, and uh, pornography for sure, and you know what digital safety looks like. And that’s just so alarming to a lot of parents because they’re like, you know, you tell them that you need to talk to their kids who are under ten about pornography. And they freeze. Cuz they’re like, there’s no way I’m gonna talk to my eight year old about that. But the average age for the first exposure to pornography is eight years old. So if you haven’t talked to your kids yet, and they’re eight or nine or ten or twelve, and you’ve never talked to them about pornography, what it is, and what to do if they see it, then you are risking the chance that they are going to not know what to do, and just freeze. Or be terrified. Or be curious. And no one said, “don’t go back and look again.” It’s just so much better if we can bridge that gap and put our own fears aside and say, “hey, I need to talk to you about something even though you’re only eight.”

Melissa: right. Can you introduce, briefly, like yourself… your adventure books are what I love sharing the most right now. But then, I mean, you’re an author, you’re a speaker, you’re a blogger, you’ve got this hashtag, right.

Greta: a mystery. It’s very troubling, I don’t make any sense. I’ve had several publicists like reach out to me and they’re like, umm, you’re kind of all over the place, it’s hard to brand you. And I was like, I know, I don’t fit in a box!

Melissa: renaissance woman.

Greta: [laughter] Because all of those things are important to me! First of all, first and foremost I think what drives me is that I’m a mom, I have four kids and I’m passionate about cultivating relationship and connection with my kids. And I do that through chasing adventure with them and pursuing, you know, making meaningful lasting memories through these adventures we do together. And I love that part of our life! And it’s been a part of our life for, you know… my oldest is eighteen, we’ve been doing it regularly every single week since he was five. And I love it so much I wrote a book about it, Adventuring Together. My first book! How to create meaningful and last memories together with your kids. But the flip side of that is that I want to make sure that I’m talking to my kids about things that break that connection and break relationship. The antithesis of connection, and that is pornography. Pornography is, it is the opposite of real, meaningful connection, relationship, and intimacy. In fact, I would say that it destroys these things. And the reality is that our kids are growing up in a world where pornography is so easily accessible – accidentally, on purpose, it’s out there. And you know, raising my kids, they’re growing up, and I think, wow, I have to, I have to deal with this with them. Because I don’t want them to grow up and I never talked to them about it and just sort of left them to figure it out by themselves. Because I think that that is the opposite, like I said, of what I want to help them achieve, which is lasting, meaningful connection and relationships. First with me and my husband, with our family, and then as they grow up and have that with their own families. And so that sort of became another passion of mine, is fighting porn and educating parents on how to talk to their kids. So the umbrella really is connection. So cultivating connection through things like adventuring together, but also battling the thing that wants to destroy connection which is pornography.

Melissa: I love that.

Greta: so there you go.

Melissa: there you go, you have an umbrella!

Greta: I branded myself! [laughter] But it’s not an easy brand. Because, adventure oh that’s fun, we can get on board with that. Oh, fighting porn, that’s awkward; we don’t really want to talk about it. And that’s the problem is that nobody wants to talk about it. But we have to. Like yes, I know it’s uncomfortable. Yes, I know it’s awkward. Yes, I know we don’t want to face that reality with our kids. But we have to. Because we have to protect them. But also, we have to help them have a future of sexual health. And not, like I said, like not enter their future relationships, their marriage, with the baggage of having battled or faced pornography and not knowing what to do with it.

Melissa: so on your blog, which is just, I’m trying to remember… is it just GretaEskridge.com?

Greta: yep, just GretaEskridge.com, real simple. Unlike my Instagram which doesn’t make any sense.

Melissa: actually okay, that’s a good question! Where does MaAndPaModern come from?

Greta: okay we’re sidetracking. Yeah so my Instagram handle is MaAndPaModern, and that came about because when I first started Instagram, I didn’t even know what it was. I had just gotten my first smartphone, and my friend was on Instagram, she was like, oh you’ve got to do it, it’s so fun. So I thought initially I would use it to help promote my husband’s art. He’s an artist, and loves midcentury modern design, architecture, and art. And I thought, okay, well we’re like, it’ll be a little about our family and our home, all of our kids are artists, and like showing our design sense and also his work. So it’ll be Ma and Pa Modern. So kind of like a play on words. We’re old fashioned, Ma and Pa. But we’re actually modern, but it’s really midcentury modern from the fifties… it made perfect sense to me! And then after I was on there for a little while, I was like, I don’t want to promote Aaron’s art, I want to promote my writing and the things that I care about. So um I’ll share it, but that’s not the point, that’s not the point. And then everyone’s like, you can’t change it, you’re Ma and Pa Modern, that’s who you are. So it’s funny when people will say to me, like, so are you like a modern day Ma and Pa Ingalls, are you guys homesteaders? [laughter] We’re like, nope! I do make sourdough bread, but that’s about the extend of my homesteading capabilities.

Melissa: Sunday morning bagels, right?

Greta: yep, that’s about it. Yep, Ma and Pa Modern or GretaEskridge.com that’s how you can find me.

Melissa: so on your blog, on your website, I remember reading about cultivating a healthy sexual culture in your home, and of course that’s an enormous topic, which is probably why you go and you speak on these things. So that’ll be something that I’m hoping in the future to pull from you, but just in sort of a brief introductory way… if that can even be concise, what does it mean to cultivate a healthy sexual culture?

Greta: well I think the reason it’s important to me to have that conversation as well as the one about pornography is that I never want to present to my own kids or to encourage parents to only say, hey there’s this awful thing called pornography, it’s bad, stay away from it – and then that’s the only conversation we have about sex. In fact, I want that to be just one small part of the conversation and the majority of the conversation around sex and sexual things is that it is something that is a gift from God. He created it and designed it for us, for our pleasure, and for good. And we’re made in His image, so our bodies are beautiful, they’re created and designed by Him. They’re not something for us to be ashamed of. He designed them to work together and to, again like I said, for our pleasure, to create human life. Those are all good things. So that’s the picture of sex and sexuality I want to give to my kids. And that’s a positive one. Because if we only focus on, pornography is bad – which it is – but that’s all that we talk about when it comes to sex, then we’ve left out all the good. And I don’t want to do that. And so I think if I work hard at creating this healthy sexual culture in my home, when the hope and the goal is that when or if… I think when… my kids encounter pornography or some sort of negative picture of sexuality or sex, that they will be able to come to me and say hey, I saw this, I have questions, I’m concerned, or this happened and I wish it hadn’t, I wish I hadn’t seen it, or I wish this experience hadn’t happened. But they’ll be able to come to me because we’ve cultivated a culture where we’re open, we’re not afraid to talk about these things and we’re not afraid to have questions or to say, what about this? Like, that’s the culture that I want to have in my family with my kids, and that’s what I want to have, help other parents achieve as well.

Melissa: sounds like open communication… before, during, after, all of those.

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Greta: yeah. So it’s not about fear. It’s not about, it’s all bad. It’s about, yeah, that’s a distortion of the good thing God created. And so we want to reject that, and we want to move towards the beauty and the goodness God made.

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Melissa: what tools do you have to recommend for protecting, you know? Conversation obviously is the big one. Are there other things?

Greta: yeah. I think that a lot of times parents want to first and sometimes only, they’re like, tell me what I can just put on the phone, put on the tablet, put on the computer, and my kids will be safe. And I think that those things are incredibly important. You do need to install software, and put on things on those screens and devices to protect your kids. You need to have limits set in place for them. But that can’t be all that you do. And so I always say, like you said, it has to start with conversation. That should be when you have a six year old or a seven year old, and you are letting them know the limits. Like you, you know, you can’t just get online and look at YouTube all by yourself, that’s not a safe place to be. And so they shouldn’t have a device where they could do that, but they also need to know that’s not something they can do. So you have those limits in place. Limits that you’ve put in place, limits that they know. But then you also need to explain to them why they can’t just go on YouTube. And then if they were to do that… on purpose or accidentally… because they could be at someone’s house and they’re looking at YouTube or doing a Google search for you know Princess Jasmine, or whatever it is, Pokemon, I mean you could search anything and you could accidentally stumble upon inappropriate content. They need to know what to do. And so that’s when you, that’s really the basis. And you have a conversation and you say, hey there’s this thing called pornography. It’s bad for your brain, it’s bad for your heart, and it’s not safe. And it’s my job to keep you safe from it. And so here’s what you do if you see it. You just tell them, I think, keep it as simple as possible if they’re young.

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Greta: if you see it, you need to close the computer or turn over the phone or turn off the tablet, walk away, and come talk to me. So just real simple steps. And um if you feel like you can’t have that conversation on your own – because some parents they feel like, oh I wouldn’t know what to say, I’d get so flustered – there are books, for example there’s a book called Good Pictures Bad Pictures. That’s a great book to read with young kids. Read it first. You’re the parent. Read it first, decide what parts of it you want to share with your kids. Cuz you might not be ready to share all of it, or there might be some things that you want to change the language on. And then read that with your kids if you can’t have the conversation on your own. And then as your kids get older, this is really critical: you can’t like stop having the conversation. You can’t think, oh I did it when they were little. They know what it is, we’re all done now, I put some parental controls on their phone, and we’re fine, we’re all done now. You need to keep talking about it. And you actually need to broaden the conversation. So you need to start talking about things that they might encounter as middle schoolers or high schoolers. Things like how do you respond if someone were to ask you for a nude photo, or to send you one. What do you do? So many parents don’t even think that’s a conversation they should be having with their middle schoolers, but it is.

Melissa: especially as homeschool moms. “My kids are with me practically all the time,” right? Church, co op, music lessons – that’s kind of all they do outside of our four walls. And yet that does not mean that my homeschooled, conservative family, country kids are not going to be faced with those kinds of questions. Because those kinds of things can happen at youth Bible study!

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Greta: right, one hundred percent, yeah. And even if it didn’t happen while they were living at home with you, it could happen to them after they leave. And if you haven’t prepared them for it, then they’re not gonna know what to do then. So I think, I always think, that’s wonderful if they’re not exposed to any of this stuff before they’re eighteen and they move out. But have you trained them for what to do when they’re nineteen and they are moved out, or they’re twenty? Like you still have a job to do to prepare them for later, because it is going to happen at some point. I mean, I didn’t see pornography until I was an adult, and it was shocking to me as an adult. And so I want my kids to know how to handle it whether they’re a child or an adult. We need to give them the tools. So you have to keep talking to your kids. There are books for them to read when they’re older, for you to read with your kids. I think it’s so valuable to have those conversations with your teens. Like I have three teenagers now, and last year we read a book together called Chasing Love by Sean McDonald, and um, it is… I’m, not McDonald, McDowell. Sorry, Sean. I thought that doesn’t sound right. Sean McDowell’s book Chasing Love. And it’s, it’s all about sex, love, and relationships in our modern culture. I read it with all three of my older kids, I read it aloud. And we had… it was awkward sometimes, but we had great conversations. And things that they hadn’t thought about, things I hadn’t thought to talk to them about. And things that they needed to figure out like as they’re getting older, where do they stand on certain issues. And I just think that’s, that’s a powerful tool to give to our kids, to know you’re a safe place for them to talk to, to come to. And that you care so much about them you want to have these conversations with them to help them as they navigate a world that really is very different than it was when I was growing up. They’re entering a world that is tough, and we need to help them, we need to prepare them.

Melissa: yeah, that’s something that I read on your blog as well. It’s sort of this three part: pray for them, protect them, prepare them. And I loved that. I mean, I kind of like alliterations to begin with. Just pray, protect, prepare, and remembering that those are all kind of intertwined. I really liked that. I wonder if the, the idea of giving them something better… I know you’ve used that phrase before. What does it mean to give them something better? To give them a replacement, an alternate?

Greta: thank you, I love that you brought that up because it kind of connects to this idea of adventuring with my kids. I think that we are, again, so tempted to just say, that’s bad, don’t do it. But then we don’t say, here’s all of the good things you can do instead. And so, you know, we are like put all these limits on tech, don’t have screen time, don’t play video games, whatever your family like rules are in those regards. But are you offering wonderful alternatives to your kids? Are you, for example, teaching them how to cultivate real friendship and relationship and intimacy, showing them what those things look like? So that they, if they see pornography they’ll be able to identify that as a lie, it’s false, it’s not what real relationship and connection looks like.

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Greta: and so I think offering them good alternatives is your teaching them and showing them, sharing with them all the good things they can do instead. Because the reality is that a lot of people who turn to pornography or return to pornography, are doing it, especially I think in teen years, because they’re bored, they’re lonely, they’re discouraged, they’re depressed, they’re um frustrated, angry. They’re dealing with negative emotions, and pornography gives a quick dopamine hit that makes you feel better. And if we don’t recognize, and if we’re not honest, about the fact that pornography does make you feel better for a little bit, we’re missing out on one of its most powerful pulls. And we have to offer our kids something better. So that when they’re dealing with those negative emotions, they can say, oh there are other things that I can turn to. So getting them involved with lots of activities or hobbies, things that they’re passionate about, helping them find ways to spend time doing things they love away from a screen. Being outside. Being with their friends. Moving their body. Cooking. Creating. Knitting. Whatever it is! Like give them lots of opportunity to do good things that are away from screens and that are dealing with those feelings of boredom or loneliness or depression or discouragement. Give them good alternatives. And that requires work on our part as parents. Like we might not feel like we have the time or the desire to go, you know, hiking with our kids. My husband just went on a fifteen day backpacking trip with our two oldest sons.

Melissa: wow.

Greta: and they spent six months prepping, going on weekend backpacking trips to get ready for this big trek. But what an investment that he made in their relationships, and showing them that there are really powerful things that they can do together and on their own when they might be feeling like I would rather stay home and take the easy way out. So I think it’s important to offer our kids alternatives, things that are good to do with their time and with their feelings, instead of just turning to that quick dopamine hit.

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Melissa: do you think it’s important that the something better also has a dopamine hit?

Greta: it can, for sure. I mean, for example exercise. I mean, like, I know for myself when I’ve gone through periods where I’ve really struggled with like depression, like exercise provided those endorphins that made me feel good even when I didn’t feel good. Um, so that can definitely be something that might be good to pursue, you know. Like hey, if you’re feeling… especially if you know they’re in a place where you know they might be struggling, to be able to say go for a run right now, or you know, we put a climbing rope on our tree in our backyard. I have a son that’s like struggling with like anger or frustration, I’ll say, hey go climb that rope five times, you’ll feel better. But that’s not always gonna be available, you know. It’s really just more learning how to take those feelings, those negative emotions, and learning how to deal with them in a constructive, positive, and better way. But also just so that the lure, even if they’re not dealing with like wanting to look at porn, just to not, even if you’re not at that place, like preventatively fill their life and their days and their world with all the good things that are out there for them to do so it’s less of a temptation for them to go to at all.

Melissa: yeah. Something else that I love how you have phrased is, uh, not being afraid to be radical.

Greta: yeah.

Melissa: but that you equate radical with something like being Amish. [laughter] And so be more Amish than you think you need to be.

Geta: yes, and to give credit where it’s due, that’s from a book called Tech-Wise Family…

Melissa: oh, so that’s Andy Crouch.

Greta: yes. And he says in the beginning, he says, you don’t have to, you might not have to be all the way Amish, but you might want to be almost Amish. And that was like such a, that was just a really clear picture for me of what, what it looks like to be counter cultural really. And that’s what I think we do need to be counter cultural. I mean, the average age for kids to get their first smartphone is ten years old. I think we need to be counter cultural and we need to be radical and say, my ten year old does not need a smartphone. And thirteen year olds don’t need a slew of social media accounts. I think they don’t need any social media accounts at all, but I’m radical. [laughter] It’s a lot for a thirteen year old to manage, right! I mean there’s so much, and there’s so much negative content on there that they can easily get sucked into. So we do have to be radical, we do have to say, I know all of your friends have this or are doing this, but in our family we don’t think that it’s best, and so we’re going to do it differently. And um, I think if we’re willing to do that and we’re willing to walk that line, our kids will be better for it.

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Melissa: I just read Habits of the Household by Justin Earley I think might be how you say his last name, and he used this quote from Frederick Douglas a lot, and then I know you’ve also used this quote that “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And that’s not to say that it’s easy to raise strong children. Because it does take work, it does take prayer, it does take effort. And it can sometimes feel insurmountable but I think that idea of being unafraid to have those hard conversations or to make radical choices… that’s, it will still be more simple, and hopefully more loving to our children and more honoring to God, than to not do those things and have to deal with the repairing of the brokenness down the road.

Greta: yeah. Yeah, I agree.

Melissa: one other question. You have more sons than daughters, and that’s my… that’s my reality as well. So most of the time when I think about… especially pornography, but even just tech in general, my sons are more drawn to it than my daughter. She might grow into, you know, enjoying tech more but she’s not yet ten. The reminder that this subject and these conversations aren’t just for our sons, how do you… how do you approach that? Or do you approach it differently between your daughter and your sons?

Greta: I’m so glad you brought this up, because I always remind parents that pornography is not a male issue. It is not a female issue. It is a human issue. Because it impacts men, women, and children. And in the past, it was more common that men were engaging with pornography than women, but that is changing rapidly. Women, especially younger women are, and that includes teenagers, are engaging with pornography more than ever before. And so my daughter is not left out of the conversations. When we have conversations about the dangers of pornography, the damage pornography causes, um, it’s addressed to all my kids. I tend to divide the conversation by age appropriateness, not by sex. So my eleven year old is not having the same conversations… my eleven year old son is not having the same conversations that I’m having with the three teens who are, you know, eighteen, sixteen, and fourteen – two boys, one girl. So we’re just talking about it at an age appropriate level, not based on male or female. The place where we do have conversations that are separate would be more related to things that are, like, for example, when we’re gonna to talk about, you know, having a period. Well my boys are gonna know about that as well because I think it’s valuable and important for them to know um for, just for themselves just how the human body works for males and for females, for their future with their spouse. But then I’m gonna have a conversation with my daughter that’s gonna be different because she’s experiencing something that they won’t. But I understand her experience because I’ve had the same experience. So those conversations will be separate, but not entirely. And definitely when it comes to things like you know pornography or sexual predators or anything like that, those are for all of them because it impacts all of them.

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Melissa: it’s not a male issue or a female issue, it’s a human issue. I really like that. Yeah. Well, what’s sort of your, um, your last… [giggling] your last thing. I know I promised you we’d keep it short.

Greta: it’s hard to! There’s so much to say!

Melissa: I know! I just want this to be a teaser. Because I definitely want to, somehow, bring you into the conversation more fully. Even if not in person, you know, some kind of webinar or something, because I do think it’s an important issue. And if I’m feeling like I need to talk about it, then I think there’s other people in similar situations… and… but if you could just say one more thing, like what…

Greta: yeah, well I think, I would just echo what you just said that if you feel like you need to talk about it, then you know other people need to talk about it. And that starts in your own home with your own family. So not being afraid to broach the conversation with your kids first. But then also broaching it with your fellow moms, with other families. And to just, even if it’s… you don’t have to say, hey, I want to invite you over so we can talk about pornography. Like, they might be like, hey what’s wrong with you? [laughter] But more like, hey, I have this book that I just read with my kids and it was so helpful. Have you heard of it? Do you want to read it with your kids? Because I want to know that my kids and your kids are safe when they’re playing together. So talking about this difficult subject in a way that is proactive, and that you are willing to step into that awkwardness, because it’s going to be protecting not just your kids but the kids they’re playing with, and the kids in your neighborhood, the kids in your school, the kids in your church… that’s what we need to do. We need to be willing to just step over the awkwardness and say, all right, here’s a book I want to tell you about, or here’s an article, here’s a podcast I think you should listen to. Start the conversation. Not just with your family, but with everyone around.

Melissa: that’s just full circle right there. Like boom, high five! That goes right back to relationship and connection and communication. So, well done! [laughter]

Greta: thank you!

Melissa: well I just, I really appreciate you taking the time, today, amongst all the other things, and just having this little conversation with me. At the very least, I’m just grateful for your voice on this, your encouragement, and the hashtag because that’s something that I know I can click on and find some community on that. So.

Greta: yes, awesome. Well thanks for having me! It was a joy to talk to you even though we talk about awkward things. It can be done with even with some laughter, and we can do hard things, right?

Melissa: yes, we can by the grace of God! Amen!

Greta: amen. [laughter]

Melissa: aw, thank you, Greta. Okay. Well, we will talk again soon, one of these days.

Greta: we did it!

Melissa: and I just really appreciate you.

Greta: yeah, thanks for having me, it was good. That was a good conversation, really good. Awesome.

Melissa: okay, well, enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you so much

Greta: okay, you too, and I’ll talk to you soon, okay? All right. Have a good rest of the day. Bye-bye!

Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation.
And in the meantime, peace be with you.

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