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


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 and 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.

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