In this episode, Paideia Northwest’s Melissa Cummings reconnects with longtime friend Jen Carlson of Hysa House. Jen shares what godly paideia includes for her young family, emphasizing hospitality, music, Sabbath… and ultimately a variety of ways to make the gospel centered home nothing less than delicious.
Including specific book and music suggestions, and personal insights on how to live Christianly while pursuing all that is good and true and lovely, this is a golden conversation. To the Kingdom!
Links to Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Melissa: Joining me today for this paideia conversation is Jen Carlson, and we invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
I want to introduce to you a friend of mine, we’ve known each other actually for a long time, and I’ve been able to follow what God has done in her and in her family over, I don’t know, over a decade or decade and a half. And I’m really grateful to introduce my friend, Jen Carlson. Good morning!
Jen: good morning! So fun to be on here with you, Melissa. Thank you for having me.
Melissa: absolutely. So before we jump into our conversation topic today, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about you, your background, and what your current work is.
Jen: so, my name is Jen Carlson. I’m married to Joe, we’ve been married eighteen years; and we got married young, while we were students at New Saint Andrews, and so this is a shameless plug right away for New Saint Andrews. We both attended and we knew each other way, way back since the fourth grade, so we ended up getting married halfway through NSA and just loved our time there. And everything that we learned there, the culture, the beauty of Christ in the home, the beauty of Christ in education, just took that with us and we were very changed by it, very shaped by that. And I can’t say enough about our time there. New Saint Andrews is an, if you guys don’t know, it’s in Moscow, Idaho, and we were originally from California, and so it was just a, it was an eye-opening thing and I tell you – Joe and I don’t go a day without really talking about the effect, the beautiful effect, that that had on our lives. And I’m talking about this now because it’s gonna come up later in our conversation, I think, with Melissa. But, like, it is such an important thing to have that kind of shaping at such an age. We were, you know, eighteen nineteen years old, and we were living with families while we were going to NSA and taking our classes, but what we experienced there we really wanted to, once we graduated, we really wanted to take that home, back home with us. Everything that we learned about living robustly in, you know, a Christward life. Living joyfully and living robustly, I just can’t say enough about how impacted we were in that area, and even down to the details as I was living with my host family, the mom would make meals for the family every night. We would all sit around the table every night for dinner, including her boarding students, we all got to sit at her table. She always had cloth napkins for every dinner, it wasn’t like just – and I’m not saying you guys need to do this – but for her, this was what she wanted to do, she beautified her home this way. And boy, I tell you, I did not experience that growing up. I didn’t understand the beauty of the table, the way that it brings people together, the way that it’s… anyway, you know, it’s just a beautiful thing. So she taught me so much about the home and about hospitality. And Joe experienced similar things in the family that he was living with too. So when we got home from college, we really decided very intentionally that we wanted to doo this same thing, the way that Joe and Jen might do it. Not trying to copy them exactly, but do it the way that it might come out from our fingertips in an organic fashion in Joe and Jen’s home. So, you know, as you’re a newlywed, we’re not really sure what that looks like, you kind of have to do trial and error. But over the years, we just decided to be, to have an open door. So our home has been a home of hospitality since the beginning. And then Joe became a pastor about eight years ago, an elder at our church back in California; he was an elder for a while and then an associate pastor. And during that time we also had a house on the church property that we had renovated and that we named Hysa House on purpose. And hysa is a Swedish word that means to nourish, to nurture, to harbor, and to house. Like, there are multiple definitions of that word but you get the picture. There’s this sense of, like, just in a warm, enveloping hug when you come into a home and really it – and Joe is actually 100% Swedish, so it kind of made sense to use that Swedish word…
Melissa: sure does!
Jen: so it’s Hysa House! And we actually made a sign and put it at the front door, and we had been practicing hospitality for years at this point. But once he became a pastor and we had a parish home and we actually renovated it to flow beautifully from room to room so that we could have lots of people in there, and cook big meals and feed people and house people and, you know, have beds for people – so, we really made sure that we were intentional about that. And that all came from our college years. It was just, it’s just an amazing thing to think about, just that understanding of hospitality and how powerful home life is. How powerful it is! And so, um yes, we did Hysa House for about four years, and then I got really sick and had to move out of that house because we found out it was moldy. So we spent some, we’ve spent some years in our marriage living with Joe’s parents, and really in some trial and health trials, and just really struggling with that. But I think during that time it was so important that we – God wanted us to be, to have nothing but Him. And so we spent deep hours, deep days, deep years in the Word together. There was a year where I was in bed, bed-ridden, I couldn’t do anything. Joe quit his job to take care of me. This was before he was a pastor. But there are times where God really wanted to sow into us things that we couldn’t learn any other way. And then He also wanted to prepare us for our son who came along when I was thirty-five. So we waited thirteen years, asked the Lord thirteen years; some people wait thirteen years on purpose. So we didn’t, we wouldn’t have chosen that if we had had another way. And yet God, I’m so grateful, I’m so grateful God asked us to wait. And Joseph came to us through adoption after I had been bed-ridden and we weren’t sure if I was going to have a future, if I even was gonna live. And God just brought our hearts together toward Him and toward Joseph. So now we are parents, and older parents, and that is a really unique thing I think. I do think that some women are having babies later in life, and so that’s kind of sort of maybe, you know when you’re thirtyish or something and starting your family. But thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven to really be starting your family, kind of as a surprise, is a unique thing. And having been, after walking through that infertility journey for thirteen years, and really relinquishing our story to the Lord and saying, Lord You’re writing our story. And you know, that was such an amazing journey to walk, and I’m so grateful. But now I’m also so grateful for the fact that God asked us to really be intentional, thoughtful, and proactive in the culture of our home before Joseph even came along. This, this has been so incredibly powerful for him so far. He’s four, and we just love him to pieces! I can’t really imagine, I don’t know, just, I’m so grateful for the ways that God has already shaped the way that our home functions before he even came along. Of course we’ve made some adjustments, and now he’s four and we can really start to pour into him as a four year old might need it. But kind of the basic, the way that the home runs, like, the way that we love God, the way that the music’s going, the way we have interaction with people in our home all the time, like, that’s just happening organically already. It’s not like, okay, now we have children, now we have to sit down and think, like, what are we gonna do, you know.
Melissa: right, you had a home culture and a family culture that you had cultivated for years before Joseph was in your arms to join that family.
Jen: yes, yes! It was like, he – exactly – he’s suddenly joining this conversation that’s already been happening for, you know, these thirteen years. This, you know, conversation of faith that’s happening between these walls. And when we started Hysa House, I remember saying, asking the Lord, like, Lord let Your Holy Spirit dwell here; let this be a place where the Holy Spirit is, and where when people walk in, they sense that there is – they sense You. They taste… I guess, the banner, the banner verse has been, taste and see that the Lord is good. Can somebody walk into our home and taste something about Christ? Even if they don’t know Christ, they don’t know what it is they’re tasting, but they’re tasting something delicious. And they want, they want more of it. And I remember when I was a girl growing up near Joe’s family, we were, they were that to me. And I just remember walking to their house and going, I want to be a part of this family. And I ended up being part of the family, I’m so grateful! But I remember that feeling when I walked into their home. So my inlaws have been very helpful to me in that, showing me how that goes. But that’s kind of our journey, and I think that, I think that, you know, our, just our forte – Joe’s and my forte is just home life, like making it a delicious expression of Christ, you know. A delicious atmosphere. Where we want people to want to be here. We want people to feel nourished, both body and soul. And so that’s gonna tie in to paideia I’m sure.
Melissa: yeah. So tell me about that, you know, you do take that home culture with you. So you’ve recently taken a physical journey…
Jen: yes, right!
Melissa: you’ve mentioned California, and then you said back in California. So tell us where you are now, and where you are creating that delicious home at this point.
Jen: yes, you’re right. I totally forgot to say that we moved to Texas, and we are now in Texas, we’re in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, totally different than where we were in California. So it’s a big culture change. But we’re very thankful to the Lord and we’re very excited. My husband is pursuing his PhD at University of Dallas. And this is new for us, we always assumed he would be pastoring and teaching in the church, but God just redirected things and we’re very excited. So we’re here for at least three years while he’s finishing his PhD work. And so we have this little tiny apartment, a little one bedroom apartment on the third floor in, like, the biggest metroplex. I mean, Dallas is probably one of the biggest cities in the country. And so, we’ve got, it’s just a whole new experience. We went from redwoods and ocean and country life to this, you know, fast and furious sort of thing, and this culture here in the city. but what I love about transferring, like, we’ve transplanted our life from California, but nothing’s changed inside our walls.
Jen: I love that so, so much! And it’s been such a source of comfort, number one. And a source of stability for our son, too. And then, you know, our parents actually moved with us, so Joe’s parents and my parents, they all have their own stories as to why it was time for them to move, too, but they’ve also moved with us to Texas.
Melissa: I love that so much.
Jen: oh, it’s amazing, and we are so grateful. It would be so sad if they had to stay behind. But they’re with us too, you know, in their own homes, doing their own thing, and we’re all kind of like twenty minutes away from each other, but when they come over it just feels, you know, it just feels like home. Like, you know, we do our, we’ll talk about this more maybe later, but we’ll do our Sabbath dinners, and that just grounds us, it anchors us to our home culture. So it, I’m very grateful, we’ve been really busy kind of trying to furnish this little tiny place, and make it cozy, make it a place for people to be able to be here. This is something that’s really unique in a tiny, tiny apartment. We were actually very proactive about what furniture do we get for this space, because we actually want a dining table. Like, we want to make that a priority. And at first, we were like, we’re not gonna have any room. But I tell you, I could show you a picture, we have this huge long table that seats twelve people, we have this big long bench that my husband built, and there’s plenty of space. There’s plenty of space for playing on the floor, on the carpet, there’s a couch, there’s a chair, there’s, you know. But we had to think long and hard about, well, what are our priorities? What are our priorities for this little tiny place? And that’s been such a gift. So here we are trying to plant new roots, but I’m just grateful to carry this home culture with us.
Melissa: yes! And that the center of it is Christ, and that is what doesn’t change, and you’re able to prioritize Him and the things that He loves and that Scripture proclaims as lovely. And that’s what you’re doing, you’re carrying His work wherever you go. I love that!
Melissa: so, you mentioned the word paideia, and that’s something that we talk about, of course, here. So you know that word, you know where it comes from, Ephesians right – Paul, talking about raising our children in the paideia of the Lord, and how he took that word – the reason he used that word is because it was familiar to the people who received his letter. So what does that word mean to you? I know you’ve already alluded to it, but specifically, wordwise, what does paideia mean to the Carlsons?
Jen: to the Carlsons, obviously, you know, it’s like, it’s a culture. You’re building a culture. You’re educating. But I think, I mean, those are kind of the more definite, the definition of that word is like enculturation or education with an intention. So when it was used back then even in the Greek, you know, the Greek eras, they were intentional about their children growing up in a certain way, right. Because they are people of this, of the state or people of the city. They wanted their, the next generation to be good citizens. So when we think about paideia, we think about it as first of all, it’s very intentional. Whatever you’re doing to, you know, in your home, it’s, well – it needs to be intentional. Your – the culture that you’re creating though, it’s gonna happen no matter whether you think about it or not. So you’re gonna be creating a culture just accidentally, if you don’t think about it and be intentional about it, right?
Melissa: right, nothing is neutral.
Jen: nothing is neutral, and it’s gonna be, your children are gonna be taught one way or another. And what is it that they’re gonna be taught? You’re gonna be shaped one way or another. What are you being, how are you being shaped as the parent? I think, so when we think about paideia for our family, if I’m just gonna boil it down, it’s taste and see that the Lord is good. That’s it. We want, when we think about how we want Joseph to grow up, we want it to be such a delicious atmosphere for him that he’s, like, breathing, he’s eating and drinking and breathing this beautiful, joyful delight in Christ. And right now he’s four, he’s just learning about Jesus, we’re talking about it all the time, he’s asking questions. But before that, he was eating it and drinking it and breathing it before he, you know, before he was even talking, right? So it’s so, I think that, for me it helps me to just boil it down to, what is the essence of it? What is the, almost, what’s the feeling of it that I want to create? Because you can, the, I don’t know, the catechisms and the things to do on the to do list, are very, are important too. We want our children to understand what we believe. We want them to intellectually be there. But we also want their hearts to be wooed by the love of Christ. We want them to be drawn in, not because we’re forcing and dragging them to this, to be this kind of person, but more like, do you know that there’s a loving Creator? Do you know Jesus our King? Like, can you taste Him? Is He awesome? Like, and how do I, how do we express that in our daily life. Like, how do we express that in our home? That’s what Joe and I, that’s how we see it. So paideia is just basically this delicious atmosphere of Christ, and everything we do is trying to, you know, bring Joseph to the feast, right, bring Joseph to the table. And introduce him and let him see with his own senses that Jesus is real, that He is alive, He’s his King, and He’s a delight. Like, He – and we owe Him our allegiance, but also, we love Him! Like, we love Him!
Melissa: what is the chief end of man? Right? It is to glorify God… and we really maximize on that a lot in, I don’t know, in specific Christian circles maybe. But that next part… the enjoying Him! To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I feel like that’s what you’re getting at. You’re talking about enjoying the Lord, and the culture of Christ.
Jen: yeah. And that, yeah.
Melissa: so you mentioned catechism, you’ve mentioned hospitality – what are some of these ways that you specifically pursue or implement a godly paideia for you son, but then – you also mentioned – we, as adults, we’re still enculturated. And so we still need to be purposed with our own shaping. What are you pursuing specifically?
Jen: well, so obviously, this goes without saying, right. But worship on Sundays is critical. I’m probably preaching to the choir with this podcast audience. But, so that’s a given. So worship on Sundays is absolutely how it begins. That’s the foundation. That that’s obedience to God, and Him saying six days you shall work and the seventh you shall rest. And this is My day for you, and dig in! Do it. Like, enjoy it. Rest, go worship Me, drink your fill. And this is something that – I remember, Joe and I were both raised in the church, and we, Sundays was a big deal. Sundays was, like, our life was church. That’s what it was. Our life was church. So all our friends were there, and our spirits were growing in the Lord, and as we were, you know, learning the Word. So this is what we want for Joseph too. So, Sunday school and church and, you know, any time we can be at church with God’s people, we’re there. And I think that’s a priority. So that’s number one. Without that, everything else falls apart. You don’t have, you know, you don’t have the foundation. So from there, though, you can go in a ton of different directions, and you have all the resources at your disposal. But in our home, one of the things that we do is our Sabbath dinner. And this is something that we learned from our college days, our host families did this. On Saturday nights, we kind of, you know, the busyness of the week is, it just, it could keep going, it could keep running right into Sunday if you don’t let it rest, or we don’t stop it from just bulldozing into the next day. So in order to prepare for the rest, we’re trying, we began right away in our marriage, you know, eighteen years ago, to do this Sabbath dinner. Where basically everything kind of winds down, calms down around the afternoon and we really make this really fun meal, and it is festive, and it’s fun, and we get out the fun dishes, we get out the fancy stuff, we get out the cloth napkins, we light the candles, we turn the music on. And it can be worship music or it can be a good Bach album or it can be a good jazz album or just really beautiful, like, just something excellent. And I, this is something I want to touch on, that God says whatever is lovely, whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise, think on these things. And practice these things! Is what He says there in the end of Philippians. So this is something that we have really embraced and said, whatever is lovely. Well that, kind of, is actually quite a statement. Because if you tried to bring in or keep any sort of worldly music, worldly books, worldly shows, you know, worldly attire, worldly thoughts, like you can’t. If you’re gonna obey that command and abide by it, that says whatever is lovely. Are those things lovely? No. Are they excellent? No. Are they worthy of praise? No. So it’s kind of by nature that you just kind of shed those things and say, well, what is lovely? It’s just kind of an easy weeding out of those things. So on Saturdays we bring in as much loveliness as we can. We also use that opportunity to invite people over to our home. This is our main source of hospitality. Throughout the week our door is always open, people can always come in and out, but on Saturdays we are intentional about inviting strangers in. So they can be people we’ve never met before, they can be our neighbors, they can be our church folk we haven’t spent time with yet. We try to make sure we’re watching the stragglers at church. Is there anyone who needs a place? Is there anyone who needs a meal? Is there anyone who’s lonely? Is there anyone who’s new? Now this is interesting for us right now, we’re the new ones at church.
Melissa: you are new!
Jen: but we’ve already begun to invite people over. And they’re like, wow, Joe and Jen you’re just jumping right in, thank you so much – they’re being blessed by that. But that’s because we can’t not have, we can’t help ourselves, we need to, we need to envelop God’s people. And not just God’s people. We have a bunch of neighbors on our floor that we’d love to have over. So this is our way. Everyone can do it differently in terms of hospitality. But this is our way of really, not only bringing people in to the home life and the home culture, but also bringing them to the table and getting an opportunity for them to taste and see that the Lord is good. And it’s not necessarily, I think we’re a little bit laid back about it. We don’t, like, do a crazy catechism at the table. Although sometimes we do some catechism work, Joseph enjoys that. Sometimes we sing hymns at the table, after we eat. Sometimes we play music, sometimes we play games, sometimes you know we’re just having amazing conversation. We pull out the coffee maker and Joe makes fancy coffees, and you know, we always have a dessert. But what happens is it makes room for, it makes room for the culture of Christ. It makes room for the saints. And you can be as intentional about catechism as you want. We have been very intentional about that, and at other times we’ve just let, you know, we haven’t done catechism at the table. Other times we do it in the mornings, that kind of thing. But for the Sabbath dinner, it is just a time for taste and see. Taste and see that the Lord is good. We really want to put that into all of our senses. We don’t want to just, we don’t want to just intellectualize it and say, we assent to the truth that Christ is. Like, that is not paideia. Paideia is, let’s experience Christ in all the senses that we possibly can that He’s given us to sense Him with. And let’s, taste and see, I think, is such a beautiful verse, and I thank God for that so much. That’s the way that we really begin to live in Him, to really believe Him and to know Him. And thank the Lord we have His Holy Spirit! So He comes in and makes the dining room table something magical, right? The Holy Spirit’s what, without that, it’s just nothing, it’s just a bunch of stuff. You can have a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of people who don’t know the Lord, and it’s a whole different thing than a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with the table surrounded by people who do know the Lord and who believe in Him and love Him and trust Him and delight in Him. And so anyway, that’s one of the expressions of paideia for, in our family. I think the biggest one, aside from church which is first, the Sabbath dinner is just an anchor in our family culture.
Melissa: yeah. Yeah, I love all of your descriptors! What’s coming out is just joy. It’s this pursuit of joy and this sharing of joy, and of course that ultimate source of joy is Christ.
Melissa: so I love that.
Jen: yes, Christ is our joy. Christ is our life. And He, one thing I was thinking about recently, was that He, you know, He came – He became man for us. And as I was meditating on His conception in the womb of Mary, you know it, He wasn’t – the hard part for Him was the fact that He had to endure our sin, right. He had to take on our sin. But I don’t believe that He was disgusted by the fact that He had to have a human body. I think that that’s proof, that’s proven by the fact that He’s still a human. He’s delighted to stay human so that He can, a) mediate for us 24/7, and b) be human with us. Like, He didn’t finish His, you know, His work on the cross and His resurrection and say, okay Father, I’m done with body. Let’s put this aside, I want to be done. He’s still a human. He still, He is flesh and blood. How beautiful is that?! It just draws my heart to Him so much. Because how much He desires to connect with us, and then if He has a body, He’s flesh and blood, that means these things that He’s given us to experience Him through – food, music, nature, God’s creation – like, there are so many things, that’s only, you know, a tip of the iceberg. But there are so many ways in which He has expressed Himself for us to get to know Him. And those things wouldn’t work if we didn’t have bodies. You know. And so we’re gonna have bodies for all of eternity once our, once our bodies are glorified. So how glorious to do this now? When, and I encourage, you know, the listeners: it matters. What we do now in these bodies. We’re gonna have souls forever, and we also are gonna have bodies forever, though the bodies that we have now are going to be glorified into something we can’t imagine. But we’re still gonna have bodies, so what we practice here – this is like practice. This is practice for the glories of heaven! So what we’re doing here matters to the souls of our children, it matters to their actual bodies, and then the way that we raise our children has an impact on their health of course too. So this, I don’t know, yes, the joy of Christ is really what we’re after. And taking joy in Christ and like finding it and then eating it and then living it. Trying to, and that’s not necessarily something I grew up with. And so that’s my, another encouragement I have for listeners: is that, if you didn’t grow up like this, take heart, because neither did I. I did not grow up like this. I knew Christ and we went to church every Sunday, but it was, you know, it was kind of drudgery. And it was sad, it was a sad day really. And I won’t go into the details, but it’s, it was not this. And I think that’s one of the mercies of Christ upon Joe’s and our home, is that, that’s why we’ve worked so hard to make it – especially Sundays – but make every day a joy in the Lord, and how can we stop the generational drudgery and start making it palatable. Not palatable in a bad way, like condescending to the masses but…
Melissa: back to the word delicious.
Jen: yes, back to the word delicious! So I just want to encourage you, whoever’s listening. If you’re like, but, you know, I didn’t have that amazing college experience, or I didn’t grow up a Christian, or I didn’t… you know, I don’t even know what that looks like… that we didn’t really either until we, somebody showed us. So maybe go hang out with somebody who can show you how to do that.
Melissa: I was talking with someone not that long ago about the culture being similar to, you know, the sourdough culture.
Jen: yes. Yes!
Melissa: you know, it’s way easier if you already have a sourdough culture fermenting to make bread, than if you need to go make a flour and water paste and set it out in the air waiting to catch, you know, the yeast from the air. So my dad did that back in the seventies, the early seventies, and that is still the sourdough culture that my mom uses, it’s in our communion bread every Lord’s Day, and it’s the sourdough culture that I have in my fridge that I bake from. And I’ve passed it around to some other people who want to make sourdough but don’t want to have to go to the effort of catching their own yeast. So it is such a gift, even if you don’t already have a culture, right, whether you’re talking, you know, the Christian family culture, or if you’re talking the flour and water and yeast culture – it is way easier to say, I see that it’s lovely, show me, teach me, give me a portion, and then ask God to bless that. And you know, you can share it. So I think that’s what you’re getting at. Is that if you don’t have that culture, find someone who does, and be brought in. Take a portion.
Jen: yeah! And if you don’t know who that is, I would say, I mean, if you’re in the church, on Sundays when you go to church, just – who is it that you’re, you are attracted to in terms of, like, there’s somebody you really, really want to go get to know? For some whatever reason, they are, you’re drawn to them. And I remember that being the case when we were in college. There were a few moms who I was really drawn to, and it ended up being that they were really helpful to me in my understanding of womanhood, of being a wife and starting a home. And my host mom was one of those ladies, but I remember just, kind of jaw-dropping stuff that was just details like, you know, how she put cloth napkins on the table. I was like, whaaaat? are you doing? Like, that’s reserved for, like, Christmas or something, you know in our house. So, but no, her joy was getting those cloth napkins on the table every night and then on Sabbath dinners they would up the ante. But like, to me, I imbibed it all because there was something there that I wanted so badly, I was so hungry for. And not like, okay now I have to do all these things. But what I was imbibing was this joy. It was a beauty that I was hungry for. So I would say, start with just looking for someone in your church that is that, that represents that to you, that you are just drawn to for whatever reason. And they might not even do all the things, there might just be one thing about them that starts that sourdough starter for you, that is that yeast that begins that process for you, for your home life, for, even for just, you know, ruminating on it in your mind and then asking the Lord to, how do I work this out in the details? And it’s gonna take time, you know, Joe and I are eighteen years down the road in marriage, and we definitely didn’t have any sort of… you know, if I had been interviewed eighteen years ago, I wouldn’t have had anything to say except, maybe, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know, but I just know that I want it. I don’t know what it is, but I know I want it.
Melissa: right. So, you mentioned that Scripture obviously, taste and see; you’ve mentioned hospitality and catechism and worship and Sabbath feasting and finding someone that draws you with, you know, their enculturation of Christ and joy. Is there another sort of a resource or a library of resources that you either go to or suggest for someone who wants to pursue this kind of delicious family culture for Christ?
Jen: I think one of the main things, at least in our family, has been music. Music is so powerful and it, I think because it draws on, if you’re listening to good music, it not only draws on our intellect but also our heart. It is so, what the music is in your home matters. What kind of music you have playing. But like the, it’s so important to shape the heart. I think it’s such a powerful way to shape the heart, shape the affections, shape the atmosphere with music. So I would say, just general blanket statement is: music. But then, like, well, what music? For us, there’s okay, there’s a couple things. We love the Slugs & Bugs, I forget, do you remember his name, Melissa?
Melissa: oh, it’s Randall Goodgame.
Jen: there it is, Randall Goodgame. He has a Sing the Bible album volume one, and there’s a couple volumes. Sing the Bible. I would highly recommend this. There are lots of Bible music out there, and this just happens to be one that doesn’t grate on me and is not…
Melissa: that’s huge!
Jen: yeah, it’s a really big deal. It doesn’t grate on me, it’s not cartoony. I actually think as a musician, I’m a musician myself, so as a musician I really look for music that’s actually skillful. So the musicians actually can play their instruments, they can sing really well, and the music matches the words. I think that that’s really important. But it is also a children’s album, so it is really cheerful. But it’s all Scripture. It’s not Scripture trying to rhyme, it’s not paraphrased Scripture, it’s straight Scripture. But he is, Randall, has taken very brilliantly and put it to music. So I just highly recommend it. Also, here’s the thing about this, is that it’s joyful. And there are a lot – and this is, I might be stepping on toes – but there are a lot of new albums out there, I’d say new as in like the last ten years – where the music, even for the children, is morose. It’s very introspective sounding, it’s very kind of morose, it’s very, like, calm and kind of just a single guitar. Like, it feels mopey or it feels moody. I don’t, I don’t want my children having that. They’re just taking that in, like, without even realizing what it is. I can pinpoint it because I understand where music has come from, I’ve studied it. So there’s a mood in our culture right now that’s very, a music mood, that says that music should be a little bit emotional and introspective and moody, and you know, they call it authentic. Well, what I’m arguing for is something that will help the children rise to the joy of the Lord, and this is very important because this will shape an entire generation of children. And if you think about our grandparents who wrote, who grew up in the war eras, right, the kinds of music they were listening to was very cheerful. Very cheerful! What kind of generation did that produce? I’m not talking like, the music’s not the only thing with that, that created them to be the way they are, the greatest generation. But music was definitely a part of that, and if you think about the music that they listened to versus the music that our current culture listens to it’s all, it’s hands down completely different. But I think the cheerfulness – cheerfulness is key. Joy is key. Delight is key. And what I love about Randall Goodgame’s music that it is full on pure 100% Scripture put to cheerful, not annoying but cheerful, delightful music. And I can’t say, I can’t speak of that more highly. So that’s something that Joseph loves. And of course he’s getting Scripture in his bones as he’s listening. And then he’s building, you know, he’s building his race tracks and he’s doing his tiles stuff – you know, he’s got his MagnaTiles, and he’s doing all the stuff, playing using his mind and his body while listening to these fabulous songs that have Scripture just getting in to him, into his bones. And I thought about this the other day, Melissa, and I thought, what are the songs that I remember the most? It’s the hymns that I grew up singing as a child: Great is Thy Faithfulness, and How Great Thou Art, and, like, all the songs I remember sitting in church as a little person, hearing these, hearing Trudy my mom-in-law playing these songs, and learning how to sing parts, and like – but these are the ones, when I am in a moment of trial, these are the ones that bubble to the surface, right? So when they’re children, it’s so critical. It’s such a fabulous time to be, just, for them to be soaking up what’s going on in the house around them, and music is a beautiful way of creating atmosphere.
Melissa: they’re going to soak it up, so we might as well be intentional, as you said before.
Jen: exactly, they’re sponges! It really gets in. We take in things too that we don’t really realize we take in. So, I’ve been encouraged by those. And I think, so I think music. But I also think it’s very important not to, like, make – I think music should be well rounded. So I think that there’s, we have tons of classical, we have really really good jazz, we have really good you know like – Irish and Scottish music, we’ve got music from all genres that we think is excellent and worthy of praise and lovely. And I think that’s super important, too, because we want our to know that God made the whole world. Like, not just the fun music he listens to as a kid, but like, Bach’s Cell Suites. Like, God made Bach. God invented that guy and gave him the smarts to, you know, write that music. So I don’t know, I just, music has just been one of those most powerful tools for paideia. And then I think the most questions we’ve had out of Joseph from, about God and Jesus, is when we’re, at night when we’re putting him to bed, we sing hymns and then he’s asking, well, what is a throne? Because we’re talking about, we’re singing something with Christ on the throne, and what is a throne? And what is Jesus and what is heaven and what does a king mean? And, you know, he’s just asking these little questions. And those are coming from just singing the hymns, you know. Or reading, like, we have these Baby Believer books. I want to show you this one.
Melissa: oh! You got the brand new one!
Jen: we got the brand new one. We have the whole set. So…
Melissa: Danielle Hitchen’s, right?
Jen: Danielle Hitchen, and her Baby Primers, Baby Believer Primers, are just these cutest little board books. So we love them. And they’re just Scripture. Just Scripture with these adorable pictures, and then they’re talking about, like, this one’s talking about shapes. So it’s called Our God: a Shapes Primer. And…
Melissa: oh I’ve been wanting to see that. I don’t have that on my bookshelf yet, because it just came out like last week.
Jen: it just came out, right. And I think because we were Kickstarter supporters at the very beginning, so they send us the book, like, ahead of time when it’s done so we get it first. So we have the whole collection, so that’s also started a whole lot of fabulous questions from Joseph. We just read through them and he loves them. He just sits and listens and looks at the pictures and repeats after Joe and to ask questions. So that’s another little tool that we enjoy.
Melissa: yes. Books and music and food. Those are the three things I’m hearing from you, and those are the three main contributors to the family culture in my home. Those have been the three main things. Books and music and food.
Jen: yeah, that’s wonderful.
Melissa: so I identify with that.
Jen: I think catechisms have a place, but I think if you can carry a catechism into a story, do it. Right? Like, if you get, because what they’re doing with a catechism is they’re pulling the meat off the bones and they’re leaving the bones. And you’re like, well I do need to see, I do need to understand how the skeleton comes together. I need to see that, I need to understand the nuts and the bolts of the faith. But in terms of children, and even for us honestly, are we wooed to Christ by a catechism? Or are we wooed to Christ by the stories of Scripture and by the stories we read, you know, of people writing about the faith, and stories of missionaries – and like, which woos our heart to Christ the most? And that’s, I think, something that we are very thoughtful about with Joseph. We have a catechism which we like a lot, but I don’t think I would recommend – if you’re asking what tools, you know, what are your tools? That’s not a main tool in our repertoire right now, because he’s younger. I think later on it will be. But right now, stories. Just stories just to woo the heart. And I just, I want to be wooed to the Lord. And He does that through so many different means. So…
Melissa: yeah. Well is there anything else that God has, I don’t know, used to speak to you and your heart lately? Have you read anything or listened to anything that has fed your soul with beauty? We’ve talking about how your son and his heart has been nurtured. What about for you as a woman?
Jen: yes, that’s such a good question. I, well, I love reading. I love reading! I’m always in a book and I’m always reading. I think, like I was talking about how stories are so important. Things that really minister to me in terms of, I think, the faith – in terms of the faith and of being a faithful woman and a faithful wife in this household, and then the faithfulness that a loving Christian mama and a loving Christian wife, the power that she has to create a beautiful atmosphere just almost by accident, right? I mean, you have to be intentional. But like, if I am in love with my Savior, and if I am fed on the beautiful stories of His people, of Him and His people, then I am, I’ve got everything I need to pour out. So for me, my reading is like, the life of the mind, it is so important. I think that cultivating my spirit, cultivating my mind around what is true and beautiful, is to critical, so… I recently just read some, I’ve been reading through some homeschool books, and I’ve been reading, my favorite thing though is reading, like, autobiographies of brave people. Brave people. And this is gonna touch on our times, but like, we’re in a time where, you know, there’s a culture war. And it’s actually, there’s been a culture war for about a hundred years in our country, eighty years ish. But I would say it’s now getting, it’s now getting to the last skirmishes, the last war, where we either are going to have a Christian nation, a nation that turns the corner back to Christianity, or we’re going to have very, we’re gonna be living in major enemy territory. This is something that’s so critical to know as parents. And so I think that reading, for me, reading has been such a good way of making sure that I, in my, you know, my heart and my spirit, and imbibing those stories that encourage me to be courageous, to take a stand where it is needed, to stay the course, right? So as Christian parents, are we going to stay the course? Or are we gonna give in to the culture? And that, even that can be expressed in small ways, right? So, you know, am I going to stay the course with homeschooling? Am I going to stay the course with worship when all the churches want to close down or when somebody says I can’t go worship? Am I going to stay the course with, you know, making sure that our home culture is one of Christian atmosphere? Am I going to stay the course in the small things? And so, to be honest, like, really good stories of brave, courageous men and women help me so much. And so there have been so many different stories that I’ve read that – one that I’m just revisiting is the one, what’s it called, oh now it just went straight out of my brain. Oh. She’s a missionary in China and then China gets taken over by… during WWII… and she becomes a… oh hold on, let me look it up. She becomes a slave and a prisoner of war. Do you remember, do you know what I’m talking about, Melissa?
Melissa: I’m trying to think. I just finished reading Radiant by Richard Hannula with the kids…
Jen: okay, yeah, that’s a marvelous one of short stories.
Melissa: yes, and I think it touched on who you’re talking about, but I can’t think of the name.
Jen: I know! I’m so sorry, you guys. I will remember in a second. But things like that…
Melissa: I revisited The Hiding Place, you know, by Corrie ten Boom, this summer.
Jen: that’s one of the best.
Melissa: that was just a really good, timely revisit.
Jen: yeah. It’s so important to read stories like that. So any of the missionaries, any just brave people that are doing the right thing, just really refreshes me a lot. And then, like, podcasts on homemaking, podcasts on food, podcasts on music, podcasts on culture, podcasts like this – where you are really being intentional about your, not only your thoughts about it, about something, but also how you’re going to implement that into your home. Because it does need to get, you know, our theology needs to be practiced and come out in order to be real and to bless somebody. So, um, sorry, my brain keeps trying to figure out what that, the title of this story is. But I recently reread it and it was so, so good. Darlene. That’s her name. Darlene Deibler Rose, I believe, is her name, and it’s an autobiography. Let me look it up real quick, I just remembered her name so now I have to find out, you guys.
Melissa: Testimony of Darlene Rose, interesting. I don’t think that’s a name that rings a bell for me.
Jen: oh, there it is! Evidence Not Seen. That’s it: Evidence Not Seen: a Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II. You guys. If you have never read this, do it right now. Like, this is your book of the month.
Melissa: it’s going on my TBR right now.
Jen: this is your book of the month, you have to read this! And it’s really good for our times that we’re living in right now. One of the things, two things that I walked away from that… Well, actually the main thing. Let me just say. The main thing I walked away having gleaned from this book was: know the Word of God.
Jen: have it in your bones. Just start memorizing. Just start! Just get it in your bones, just read it enough that you feel like you can recall it when you need to. Because God, I mean, I’m not gonna give away the story, but oh my goodness. She… God sustained her in crazy times through His Word. And some of it just, just His work. Like, and Corrie ten Boom, you know, there’s a lot of that too, in what she suffered and in how, you know, she had the Word, but then at times when she didn’t have the Bible at hand, she would remember Christ, remember the Word of God. And there’s promises in there that you have to cling to. And I just can’t, I can’t recommend it enough. So Evidence Not Seen. You have to read it.
Melissa: excellent, yep. So I just put it on my list. So there we go. [laughter]
Jen: I’m so glad, yeah. And so that’s the kind of thing I need. Sometimes I need a lighthearted, let’s just throw on a podcast about homemaking and get that going while I make dinner. Sometimes I need something more, you know, more rich and more deep because I am a deep thinker and I really think through life, you know, I really think through it. Sometimes I think too much, so I need to, I need lighthearted stuff too.
Melissa: well, is there any final thought you have or did we skip anything that sort of stood out? I feel like now I have more to ponder and wonder about, and I’m gonna go look for some good jazz music. Maybe I’ll have to request some [laughter]
Jen: yes, okay, if you want some really good jazz – Paul Desmond. Go look up Paul Desmond, he has some really beautiful, just beautiful stuff. And then if you want something Classical, you’ve got to check out Bach’s Cello Suites. They are pretty astounding. Any of his organ works are crazy, like, just, he was a brilliant man. And then, like, we love… I don’t know, there’s so much we love, so I won’t go into it. But also decor. You know? Like think about how your decor feels in your home. Think about how warm and inviting it needs to be. What colors can you put together to make it feel warm? What colors go together that make it feel colder and more off-putting? How can you change the lighting? There’s a real, you know, big push right now with lightbulbs being the LED so that they save all kinds of money. But you know what, those things are cold. They – unless you get the warm LED ambiance lights, and I just found a bulb that I actually really like. I mean, this is getting into brass tacks now but [laughter] honestly, honestly, the lighting in your home matters! Because if somebody walks into a fluorescent lit home, which is basically what those LED bulbs are… they last a lifetime, but they’re ugly, and they feel cold and blue. Now, if you do that versus you do an old fashioned incandescent or you do one of those LED bulbs that are like really, really warm – then you have just transformed your whole entire house. And it creates a vibe for your children that encourages their hearts to be cheerful, and it encourages their bodies to relax and to be at home, and then they’re more ready to learn, they’re more ready to change their attitudes if they need to. Like, think about how you feel, you know, in an office space or a doctor’s office versus how you feel at home when you’re relaxing. You know. I just, you know, a little tidbit. But decor is really fun to play with, and how to, you know, how to encourage that sort of atmosphere where joy, the delight of Christ, is present.
Melissa: yeah. Well, tell us where we can find you around the internet. Because you share these things on YouTube and Instagram and websites and all of that. So tell us where we can find you.
Jen: okay, yes! So we’ve got a slightly outdated website. It’s HysaHouse.com And outdated meaning the pictures are old, but the content there is still really good. And you’ll read, you’ll find our whole story there. I just went into a tiny little part of it for the paideia aspect of it, but you’ll find our whole story there, how Joseph came along, all the health trials and stuff. And then I’m on Instagram @JenCarlson and Facebook as well @JenAndJoeCarlson and then I do have a YouTube channel called HysaHouse. So Hysa is h-y-s-a and then house. And there I’m really focusing on hospitality and wellness. So one of my passions is wellness, and that’s because I have walked through so many health trials. So I really am passionate about walking beside people who are in chronic illness or in, you know, long term problems or who are infertile, having trouble getting pregnant. These are some of the things that really matter to me and that God has really given me great mercy in. And so I really want to share what I’ve been given, and really help come alongside people that are walking those journeys. And so then I have a business that I run from home for practical wellness and for natural wellness means. And so those are the ways that I, you know, kind of reach out to people and support people in their journeys. But yeah, Instagram and YouTube and I need to get my website updated now that we’re in Texas, but all the content is still accurate, so yeah.
Melissa: and it’s still beautiful.
Jen: thank you.
Melissa: and delicious! [laughter]
Jen: and delicious! Yes. And I love to cook, and some of the goals of my YouTube video coming up are some recipes and cooking for everyone.
Melissa: anytime I want to make a salad, I just think, okay, Jen Carlson’s Everyday Dressing. [laughter]
Jen: I’m so glad! That is so fun, Melissa.
Melissa: there we go. So JenCarlson and HysaHouse. And I’m so grateful, I feel like it’s just such a gift to be able to chat with you today, and yeah, it’s like getting this little glimpse into the home culture that you have and just seeing what God’s continuing to do with you. And I have a feeling we’re going to be doing this again.
Jen: okay! Wonderful!
Melissa: and I’m just, I’m so grateful. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day and life to just share your heart and to share that delicious nature of our Christ, because I – oh, we just can’t get enough, right?
Jen: yeah, we can’t get enough. I know, I know. God is so kind. And thank you, Melissa. And I so appreciate all that you do. I love how Paideia Northwest is growing and, you know, Paideia Southeast now. And I so appreciate all that you’re doing. And I am, you know, brand new mama compared to you, and brand new homeschooler, so I am always drawing from you, and what you do with your boys is just mind-blowing actually to me. How you sing with them and do parts and harmonies, and they’re learning so much, like, musically, and just – anyway, I just wanted to tell you that that is such a blessing for me to kind of follow closely.
Melissa: God is so kind.
Jen: yeah, so kind, yeah.
Melissa: God is so kind. I am really looking forward to getting to connect with you in the future, including face to face one of these days.
Jen: yes, me too. Thank you, Melissa.
Melissa: thank you.
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.
Humility and Doxology‘s Amy Sloan joins us for this conversation, which is a special joy because she has encouraged and mentored me for the beginnings of Paideia Conversations. I was a guest in 2021 on her podcast Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology, so this was a fun opportunity to turn the tables and share another cross-country cup of tea. Listen in to this discussion of godly paideia from the philosophical to the practical!
Amy has experience as a second generation Christian homeschooling mom, so we can glean wisdom from her recommendations for habits, routines, and books. You might want to take notes! Or click through the show notes and highlight the transcript below… because I have the feeling this is a Paideia Conversation you won’t want to forget.
Links to Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Church history books by Simonetta Carr
Heroes of the Faith series by Sinclair B. Ferguson
Steve Green Hide ‘Em In Your Heart
The Question of Canon by Michael Kruger
Last Call for Liberty by Os Guinness
Transcript for this Episode
Melissa: All right, joining me today is Amy Sloan from Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology, and we invite you into this conversation as we talk about practicing, pursuing, and implementing paideia. Hi, Amy!
Amy: Hi, Melissa. Thank you for having me today, I’m excited.
Melissa: thank you for joining me! I’m really thrilled. Talking with you has been a blessing to me over the last, I don’t know, year almost? Definitely this year, so thank you for jumping on and experimenting with me. I know a little bit about you myself – your blog and your podcast – but could you just introduce yourself, and your family, and your current work?
Amy: sure. So, like you said, my name is Amy Sloan. I’m a second generation homeschool mom of five in North Carolina. My youngest son is six, my oldest is sixteen, then we have three girls in the middle: nine, eleven, and fourteen. So my husband John and I have lived here in North Carolina for our whole married life, and enjoy that adventure of homeschooling together. I write at HumilityAndDoxology.com, and like you mentioned, host the Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology podcast, which has been fun. And you have been one of my guests, so this is really exciting to get to chat with you now on your podcast.
Melissa: well, you have been my mentor, so it’s only right to flip the tables on you [laughter], and try out this side of the table. So I’m excited to have you share your perspective with us today. So you mentioned that you are, like me, a second generation homeschooler – and, actually, we figured out that we crossed paths when we were homeschooled teenagers! I was from the west coast, you were from the east coast, and we actually probably ran into each other in Idaho. [laughter] So that’s actually kind of a funny little nuance actually.
Amy: yes! We may have passed each other at a history conference or a ball one day.
Melissa: we may have done a Virginia Reel together.
Amy: who knows?
Melissa: I could look at old photos. That would be funny to find you. So, you have a background with Christian home education, and you mentioned that – but what, what has your experience been as someone who might have heard the word paideia thrown around throughout your own past, and now as a mom doing it again with your kids. What does the word paideia mean to you or say to you?
Amy: so of course when we’re talking about paideia, we’re talking about raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and all the many facets that that entails. I’m very thankful that in my own homeschool experience as a child, my parents didn’t see our Bible lessons or our biblical worldview as something that was like a separate subject. Instead, it was something that effected all the subjects: everything we were learning and studying, whether officially for our academics or just as a family, was all seen through the framework of: who is God and what does this teach us about Him? And so as a homeschool parent myself, that’s something that is definitely important to me: that my children see that faith and life and the things that we are reading and studying and experimenting with and wondering about – that these are all things that are integrally related together. So that they’re really seeing God and our worship of Him, and the wonder at His creation, that they’re seeing that in everything that we do in our homeschool.
Melissa: that sounds like you’re talking about worldview.
Amy: yes! So when I was a teenager, I had this pair of awesome purple sunglasses. I just thought they were the greatest thing ever! And they had, like the lenses were also tinted kind of this lavender, so when I would have them on, you know, everything that I looked at was a little tinged with lavender. And that’s kind of how I think about what we’re doing at Christians. That we’re looking at everything through the lens of what the Scripture teaches us about who God is and what He’s done.
Melissa: mhmm. So, being familiar with a term, paideia, knowing that it has Greek roots, knowing that it’s from, you know, the letter of Paul to the Ephesians, where most of us have run into it – most of us, I think, have run into it in that context from am already-Christian perspective. But it wasn’t originally a Christian word, so when we see it in Ephesians 6:4 talking about fathers not exasperating their children but bringing them up in the paideia of the Lord, how do you see that being applied in your home? Because, like you said, worldview – it’s the glasses through which we’re seeing the world around us, and we want that to be, who is God? and wonder at what He’s given, what He’s done. How do you apply that paideia in your home?
Amy: I think it’s just amazing to think about how God raised up these men to write the Word of God, through the inspiration of the Spirit, and to care about the culture to which they were writing. And to use this term as Paul was speaking to, you know, a Greco-Roman audience, and so he’s – throughout the New Testament epistles we have these ideas about being citizens of a heavenly kingdom. Those who were opposed by Babylon, if you’re reading an epistle from Peter. Talking about the family of God, this covenant family of God in the New Testament, is the church, is this family and this people. And so as I think about those ideas, I think about my own family as being part of this big family throughout history, this people of God. And we see ourselves as strangers! We are citizens of a city yet to come, right? We are on pilgrimage. My church’s own name is Pilgrim. We are pilgrims in this land. And we are praying for the good of the land where we dwell, we rejoice in seeing God at work here and now, but we also know that we’re connected to our brothers and sisters in Christ both now and throughout history in a very unique way. And so the idea of paideia is this idea of like enculturation, right? Thinking about this cultural idea, you know, for a pagan society what would be more important than to have your children be good citizens, to stand up for the virtues and the ideals of your community? Because otherwise you were gonna lose it, right, to the first invader that came through. Well, as Christians, we are most concerned about our children as citizens of heaven and our family as a representative of that here on earth. So we’re really wanting to pass on the cultural identity not of any particular country or state or, you know, region of the world – although those are part of our family, our human family, and those have value of course as well – but most importantly, we’re concerned about our children as citizens of heaven, and wanting to pass on that culture of their spiritual family tree and their spiritual home.
Melissa: yeah, that enculturation, that passing along from one generation to the next. It definitely hearkens to Deuteronomy. We are to teach these things to our children and our children’s children! And that’s a beautiful picture of that enculturation. So that’s a great philosophical and theological way to approach paideia, that Christian worldview and culture as we raise up and educate our children. What are some of your favorite practices or habits to foster that sort of Christianly culture with your children or even with yourself?
Amy: so my husband will sometimes bring up a reminder of in the Old Testament how they had, like the morning sacrifices and the evening sacrifices, and the day was sort of bookended, right, by this reminder of redemption. And so in our family, just a practical way in which we seek to communicate this prioritization in our family, both with the children and ourselves, is that we will start the day with Scripture and prayer together as a most important part of the Morning Time routine I do with my own children in our homeschool. The kids know when they come down in the morning, Dad’s generally at the table eating his breakfast. He eats the same breakfast every morning and he always has his Bible open there with him, and so they’re coming down and observing as well. The things they observe as well as the things they participate in. And then at the end of our day, generally its at the end of the day, although with older children having activities sometimes we have to reschedule it for like lunchtime or whatever, but generally at the end of the day is when we have our time of family devotions. And so that is how we end the day together, and we may not always have time to read a book together as a family or to do a bunch of activities, but that is a priority and the kids know that that’s going to be something that we make a point to do every day together. And then when we think about the week as a whole, we have this rhythm of the first day of the week always being set aside for worship. Morning worship and evening worship, time with our church family, time with our own family, time to really focus on the worship of God – and that sets our entire week up with that being the priority. So I think those are just some practical ways of just framing our week, framing our time. That means we don’t always get to do a lot of other things, but those are most important to us.
Melissa: yeah, I love that – the cyclical nature of that on not just a weekly basis but also that daily basis. What does your family, did you call it a devotion time or worship time, what does that include for you, for your family?
Amy: yeah, so we call it kind of family devotions or family worship interchangeably – you know, it’s the same idea. But what we do is we begin with prayer, catechism questions, John will read a chapter of the Bible to us, and we’ll discuss it, we’ll sing a hymn or a psalm, and then we pray again. So it’s nothing really complicated or fancy. The most important part of all of that is the reading of the chapter of God’s Word, and in our family we just read Genesis to Revelation. Then at the end of Revelation, we get back and start back in Genesis one! We don’t skip anything, even the awkward chapters, and that’s been one of my favorite parts of our family, I think. I’m really thankful for that tradition that we have had. And John and I actually recorded a podcast episode all about how to start a family worship practice if that’s something new to your family.
Melissa: oh, that would be great. I’ll have to get that link from you! Yeah. Beautiful. What do you use for resources for the singing portion of your family worship? I know there’s lots of different preferences and personalities brought into it, but with seven people in your home, how do you figure out what resource to use and what hymn or psalm to sing? Do you go straight through a hymnal like you do with the Scripture?
Amy: so again, this is something that we’ve done different things at different times. There have been times when it’s just sort of like, John or I will just pick something, but generally what works best for our family is to eliminate decision fatigue. We just need it to be like the next thing. So in the past, we sang through the entire psalter that our church was using at the time, but within the past couple years our church actually switched over to the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. Well maybe it’s probably been actually more like three or four years at this point, I’m bad with time, I don’t know, it has no meaning for me. [laughter] But whenever we switched over a few years ago, we decided that it would be a really good practice for us to go through and learn – a lot of it is similar and familiar, but it’s a new set up. So we started back at the beginning and sang through the entire psalter just in order, and are now working our way through the hymns. I have this goal that I would like to finish the whole hymnal, I think there are like six hundred ish, before my oldest son leaves home. So, I told him if we get behind he’s just going to have to sit down one Saturday, and then as a family we’re just gonna sing through the rest of it. [laughter]
Melissa: that is so funny, I have a similar goal with my children! I’ve told them that we are going to learn to sing all one hundred fifty psalms before they leave home. But I haven’t specified whether that needs to be my first child or my final child, because I just don’t know how that’s going. I haven’t kept track!
Amy: oh no! [laughter]
Melissa: but there’s only a hundred and fifty, so it’s not like six hundred, right?
Amy: yes, exactly. We started this tradition a couple years ago, was whenever it’s your birthday, we sing whatever psalm corresponds to the number of your age. And, I don’t know, that’s just been something that’s kind of fun and exciting.
Melissa: that is fun. How do you get the higher numbers though? So you’ll be really good at the first, I don’t know, fifty?
Amy: fifty, sixty, maybe? Yeah. Well that’s why we had to sing through the whole psalter separately of course.
Melissa: exactly. Hit them all numerous times. Beautiful. So you’re talking about the philosophical and theological side of paideia, and of living a Christian worldview, and we are citizens of heaven and that’s where our primary focus and heart as Christian mothers ought to be. But how do we combine that with the fact that we are called to take dominion on this earth? God put us in a specific time and place. What are some practical ways that you might have seen paideia lived out in your home and family recently in something that isn’t just family worship? Where have you seen a Christian worldview lived out in something really tangible outside of that?
Amy: well, I can think of a couple examples. I guess I’ll start like oldest and kind of move down some ages of my kids. I see the work of the Spirit really bringing out that diligence and hard work and stick-to-itiveness when things are hard in my oldest son as he’s doing a lot more independent work. It’s been very hard, but to see him begin working at a job outside the home, while doing school, learning how hard that can be but working through that, has been a joy. And I think that sometimes we think, well, it has to all be like perfect the first time through. Like, why don’t you just have it all together? But that’s not the Christian life, right, that’s not sanctification, that’s certainly not how God treats me. So learning as a parent, I think the flipside of that is learning to repent as a parent of this perfectionism and yeah well basically just expecting perfect children and being so shocked when they don’t have it all figured out. So I think that would be sort of the two sides of that. Really seeing that work with your hands, sweat of your brow, like dealing with thorns and thistles, and yet persevering for God’s glory. That diligence, I think, is something, self control, those are things that are definitely part of paideia, and I’m seeing that fruit borne out in my son. At my daughters, I mean I won’t talk about all of them, but like I see the… to make things for other people, not just for themselves but thinking of creative ways to bless their friends, noticing the lonely is something I love about my daughters. You know, those middle ages with girls, it can be a really tough situation even in the church. And to see my girls being the ones who often will notice the lonely, notice when someone is being left out, or just being thoughtful in that way is something that I think is another part of paideia. Because that’s what we’re called to do, like in the book of James, right, you don’t just look for the big flashy person and say, here come sit at the front, but ignore the person who comes in who’s dirty and ill-kempt and poor and send them to the back. And maybe we don’t judge or deal with friendships in that kind of like rich/poor dynamic in the same way, but it definitely applies I think to girl friendships especially were there’s sort of the popular and the less popular, and it can be a tension there. So seeing again that work and growth of the Spirit in them and how that applies in friendships. And then, oh, my little guy. He’s just learning to obey. [laughter] He’s learning he doesn’t get his own way, and that is something I’m still learning too.
Melissa: same, yeah. I love how you’re able to connect worldview with virtue with practical application. You’re seeing diligence and compassion and obedience, and of course we need to practice these, we need to iterate them, and there will be plenty of opportunities where our children will need to repent and where we likewise need to repent. But that’s so beautiful that we can see things like those virtues not just in a list, not just even in a, you know, fruit of the Spirit song, but to see them coming out in hard work, in schoolwork, in friendships, in things like, yeah, reaching out to bless one of their friends, baking cookies and carrying the groceries across the street, those kinds of ways. But to be able to see that that’s not just, it’s not just a good behavior or a happy incident or a happy accident, it’s the Lord at work. And He is blessing the fruit of your labors, He’s bringing that! And that is good, that is encouraging.
Amy: and I think I would definitely just emphasize that it is the work of the Spirit, because it is not a result of perfect parenting for sure. [laughter] There have been so many mistakes and so many times and oh we’ve just not handled situations in a way that honored the Lord, and so to be able to cry out to the Lord myself and say, these are Your children, you know, please be merciful to them, be merciful to me, do not treat me as my sins deserve, you know, don’t treat them as their sins deserve. And that’s grace, right. That’s the work of Christ that He has done for us, and God the Father as our perfect Parent, when we are less than perfect.
Melissa: mhmm, yeah, we were studying just yesterday the trinitarian blessing of, second Corinthians 13:14 I think, talking about the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Spirit, and this threefold blessing that Paul is giving to the people. And just seeing how that is something I would love, I would love to imitate more and more, right, how to cover my children in the blessing of grace and love and fellowship. And that’s paideia, right there. May the Lord equip us!
Melissa: so you mentioned obviously the Scripture, you mentioned the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. What are some other resources, or do you have one top resource that you would recommend to others who are seeking to raise their children in a specifically Christian culture, in that paideia of the Lord?
Amy: yeah, well, I know I already have talked about this, but I would just say, I will give a couple book titles as well. But I would say, if there’s one thing that you could do in your home that would be most valuable and most, I don’t want to use the word effective because the Lord brings the fruit, but the one most impactful thing you could do in your family would be regular family devotions that aren’t fancy but that are focused on just reading through the Scripture. And not just picking and choosing verses, but reading all of the Scripture. I’m really more and more convinced that the most important thing we can do as a family. But some additional book resources for children. I will actually kind of take a different tack and talk about church history because I think that is something that we need to focus on. It helps prevent us from error and heresy, it again gets us connected with this culture that’s not just the church of today but the culture of the church through time and history, and so I would suggest reading books by Simonetta Carr – Sinclair Ferguson has a children’s series on some of the early church fathers like Polycarp who’s a great favorite of mine, I love Simonetta Carr’s book on Athanasius. If you can read some of those great books for children about the great theologians of the church history, I think that would be a really wonderful way to encourage them and to connect them with God’s people.
Amy: we own one, Trial and Triumph. My teens have read those, my older two kids have read that particular book. I have not read that particular title, but we do own it. Yeah, we have a lot of church history books. It’s kind of a favorite thing.
Melissa: yeah. Just yesterday with my children, we were reading about Athanasius and Alexander and the council of Nicaea. And that’s one thing, my children know the Apostles’ Creed really well, and so this year I’m challenging them – and our entire homeschool co op – to memorize the Nicene Creed. And so we decided to need to know about the council of Nicaea, what were the heresies they were particularly addressing at the time, and who were the men and what was at stake when they were meeting to discuss these things. There was a lot at stake!
Amy: yes, and it’s the same things that we’re dealing with now. Who is Jesus? You know. These issues are the exact same issues facing the church today.
Melissa: oh, there is nothing new under the sun.
Amy: no. Yeah, we actually, so the Nicene Creed is one that we love to kind of, we generally like rotate through that periodically and come back and review it. We use that as part of our confession at our church as well. So the kids and I actually just finished a month of Nicene Creed review, it’s one of my favorites.
Melissa: yeah, yeah. I know you’re really interested and really good at promoting memorization, specifically of beautiful, lovely things like poetry. How do you incorporate memorization into godly paideia?
Amy: so in our Morning Time is where I will put most of our memorization, and so we will just recite things together. So I’m doing it right alongside of them. It’s not like a test or a quiz or drill work. It’s more like, oh let’s all just recite this together. And then over the course of time by simple recitation we really memorize it quite well. If not word perfectly, still we get the big ideas and the themes. So that’s where I’ll put in a longer passage of Scripture. I like that because we’re not just learning a proof text but we’re also seeing the logic of how God communicates. That’s where we’ll do things like a creed if we’re gonna include a creed in that particular month. And then I actually asked my husband if we could, I used to try to do the catechism in the morning as well, we do also do catechism as part of our Sunday School program at church, so we’re kind of getting catechism from all different directions. But it was just becoming a little overwhelming for me to try to include that as well in our Morning Time. So we have been doing that now in our evening time of family devotions, and that’s worked well. We just do a couple questions a week, do them for a week, them move to the next, you know, couple questions. And just the more you cycle through them, you’re not gonna have it word perfect by the end of the week. So I think that’s something that holds people back with memory work, is they think, well I have to do this thing until it’s like perfect, and then you just get discouraged and tired and kind of bored. So I prefer kind of just like, do it a little ways, be consistent, and kind of move on and cycle through. And then when it comes to shorter verses, I love things set to music. So things like Seeds Family Worship, the classic Steve Green Hide Em in Your Heart, you know GT and the Halo Express, all these things that are great for just learning a verse or two to music. And those are things that I still remember from my own childhood, so yeah we love that.
Melissa: well, I think the last question that I would like to surprise you with, is just tell me [laughter] what have you been reading that is specifically for your soul? Right. Not that fiction can’t be for your soul, because it could be, and not that secular poetry – if there is such a thing as a sacred/secular divide, but what have you been reading? Do you have a specific recommendation for us and is that something that you’ve been doing lately?
Amy: yes. So what I like to do is try to have something going on that I call my Sunday book. And that’s not because like it’s bad to read it on a Monday through a Saturday, but just, it helps me get through some of those books that maybe I wouldn’t prioritize as much during the week. I remember a long time ago, a mom friend, like a friend of my mom’s who, her daughter was my age, said, you know, if God has given us one day every week to devote to studying His Word and to studying the things of the Lord, that means we have over seven weeks of vacation a year! Imagine how many spiritual books you could read in seven weeks if you just read for a little bit every day. I was like, oh, that’s kind of like a mindset shift, right? We think, well, if I just can read for like fifteen minutes on a Sunday, does that really count? But if you think of it as like seven weeks of your year, it’s pretty significant. So I… can I go grab the title? I can’t remember the author’s name. Hold on just a second. This is called The Question of Canon by Michael Kruger.
Melissa: I have not heard of that.
Amy: so some of my older kids were asking me some questions about the formation of the canon, and I was like, I remember studying this when I was in high school, but I don’t really remember. So it made me kind of start asking some questions. So I borrowed this from my father-in-law who is a minister, and I would highly recommend it. I will say, it’s a hard book to read. I generally don’t find books so difficult to read. But it was so meaty that I could only read a few pages. It was good that it was a Sunday book. I could just read like for fifteen minutes and really think about it. But if someone has questions about the New Testament canon in particular, I would highly recommend this book: Michael Kruger, The Question of Canon. And then, this is, well, I’m calling it my Sunday book just because otherwise I’ll never finish it. I guess if we’re very broad with our categories of Sunday books, but I am reading this one on Sundays right now. And it’s called Last Call for Liberty by Os Guinness, and he’s really looking at the difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. And the reason why I’m counting it as a Sunday book, even though generally I try to be a little bit more biblically focused on my Sunday readings, is the idea of freedom is such a biblical concept and idea. We have to define freedom as the Bible defines it, not as an opportunity for vice, for instance, that freedom does not mean autonomy, that as Christians we believe freedom still means we are under authority. And so this idea of how that word has kind of changed the way it’s being used and applied is really fascinating and certainly very timely. He actually wrote this book like four or five years ago I think, but it’s kind of creepy, I’ll read it and I’ll be like, I feel like he’s writing this about a news article that just came out this week or something. So, this is one I’ve finished: I’ve finished the Michael Kruger and I’m working my way through the Os Guinness. Both are really excellent.
Melissa: and they’re good for your soul. And it’s a good reminder, I think, for me: paideia and the Christian culture in our home that I’m seeking to nurture isn’t just about the children. As a mom and especially as a home educating mom, I think, that tends to be my main focus. And I need to remember it is not just about them. I need Christian culture, I need to be saturated myself in the Word, in prayer, in – yes- stories of the saints who came before, in creeds, in catechism, learning with my children. And I love the idea of the Sunday book to sort of peg that at the start of the week again. I’m going to make note of that.
Amy: and it’s kind of one more way to set the Lord’s Day apart. Like there’s something special on that day. Again, not that there aren’t books that I read on other days that would be appropriate to read on the Lord’s Day, but it is a way to set it aside and set it apart.
Melissa: yea, I love that. Oh, well could you tell us one more time where we can find you all around the internet and how we can read your blog and hear your podcast?
Amy: yes, I would love for people to come over to HumilityAndDoxology.com, there I have resources for memory work and textbook free history and lots of church history and Bible and family worship resources as well. And then you can find my podcast Homeschool Conversations wherever you get your podcasts, and I also include the transcripts for those episodes over on the website if you prefer. And then I’m also on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube at HumilityAndDoxology.
Melissa: we really can find you just about anywhere we are.
Amy: yes. Not on Twitter. [laughter]
Melissa: well, stay away from there then. [laughter] Well, Amy, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me this morning about paideia and the various ways you have seen it and live it out and seek to prioritize that in your home with your family. Thank you for spending this time with me today.
Amy: thank you for having me, I can’t wait to listen to your episodes
Melissa: we’ll talk to you again soon.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. Thanks for joining us. You can find us at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. Until then, peace be with you.
In Episode 1 of Paideia Conversations, I was joined by my cohost Jenn Discher from sister community Paideia Southeast. In this inaugural conversation, we simply opened with basic questions: what is paideia? How do we spell it, pronounce it, define it? How do we pursue godly paideia, in light of Ephesians 6:4?
Then we shared some snippets and thoughts from Douglas Wilson’s essay The Paideia of God as an opening springboard.
Repentance, worship, prayer, Bible reading, joy, forgiveness! These are the foundation upon which we are building Christian culture.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson, title essay
The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson, chapter 13
Repent, Rejoice, Repeat ~ Mystie Winckler, Simply Convivial
Ephesians 6:4 & 2 Timothy 3:14-17
Transcript for Episode 1
Melissa: joining me today from Paideia Southeast is my friend Jenn Discher, and we invite you into this conversation today as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia. Thanks for joining me, Jenn!
Jenn: yes, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you!
Melissa: so, today: episode number one! We are talking about, what IS paideia? And WHO is this for? And, specifically for our springboard, an essay that we discussed together this summer called The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson. It’s always nice to have something to start with and discuss, and jump off from there rather than trying to come up with our own great ideas, right?
Jenn: yes, absolutely.
Melissa: talk about what blessings we can gain from that, and what we need to chew and spit. So paideia. What is this? What is this word? It’s so foreign to us, right? It’s not an English word. We don’t know how to spell it, we don’t know how to pronounce it…
Jenn: we don’t! We don’t know how to spell it! [laughter]
Melissa: So yeah, with Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast, it’s like, we have to know how to spell that, we have to know how to pronounce it, and we probably should have at least something of an understanding of what it means. Right? What is our vision with these communities and in encouraging moms to pursue this word, this paideia, for their families? So paideia: P-A-I-D-E-I-A, right? So paid. Paid… paideia… It starts with paid! That at least helps a little bit, right?
Jenn: that’s good. Yep, that’s good!
Melissa: and then for pronouncing it, my friend Mystie Winckler from the Scholé Sisters said, well we’re gonna pronounce it “pie” as in delicious pie, “day” as in the opposite of night, and we’re gonna throw in “uh” just for good measure. So pie-day-uh. And that’s always been really helpful.
Jenn: that’s great!
Melissa: so there you go. That’s how you spell it, that’s how we’ll pronounce it. And now we get to the fun part: what is this? First of all, Jenn, what is your background with the idea of paideia? Is this a brand new word to you or when did you first hear about this word or this idea?
Jenn: I would say maybe about five years ago, I’m estimating. So, I mean, it’s in Ephesians 6:4 so I was always familiar with that verse, like, “fathers, raise your children in the nurture, instruction, or the discipline, or the training” however it’s translated… but I don’t think I became aware that that nurture or that training was actually the Greek word paideia and really the fullness of that word until the last few years.
Melissa: right. Yeah. I know I’d heard the word when I was a child, or at least a teenager. But it’s definitely since motherhood and since homeschooling in the last thirteen years for me… it’s really… I’ve had to chew on it and flesh it out. I think understanding the height, the breadth, the depth of it is just – we could have endless conversations about it!
Jenn: yes, totally!
Melissa: so I think that’s why we wanted to share these conversations with others, right? Because we’ve been chatting about this idea for a few months and with some of our other friends, we’ve been chatting about it off and on for months, or maybe a couple years for some of us, right? And wanting to share that conversation with others. So yes, it’s a Greek word, right? We got it from ancient Greek culture where their vision was to raise fantastic little Greeks, right? And who are we trying to raise? We are trying to raise citizens of heaven. They might happen to be a citizen of a, you know, a specific nation on earth, but ultimately our citizenship is in heaven. So we want to be raising children for the kingdom of God. So what are we trying to raise? Little Christians! Not little Americans or little Greeks, we want to be bringing up children in this specific paideia. So what kind of words come to mind when you think of paideia? I know for me originally it was, like you said, nurture, instruction, discipline, education, formation – are there other words that pop into your mind?
Jenn: training, enculturation – like enculturating, culture of the Lord.
Melissa: yeah, I think that’s the big one, right, that ties them all together: the enculturation. It’s that entire person. It’s not just, if you could separate the spirit and the physical, or the intellectual: it’s not just the “Christian” part, it’s not just making sure they read their Bible and training them in catechism, and sitting at church on Sundays…
Melissa: it is that, it’s at least that! It’s also not just, you know, “school.” It’s not just the books we read or the books we listen to. It’s ALL of it. And I think that’s where, for me, I find that to be really refreshing and also very heavy. Right? It’s a lot! It’s everything. Nothing is outside the realm of this paideia. And so if we are to be pursuing a particular paideia, the paideia of the Lord as Paul told us in Ephesians, how do we go about that and what’s that supposed to look like?
So one of the places that we’ve discussed together is… Douglas Wilson has a bunch of great things about Christian education and classical education and parenting… a Paideia of God essay. I wanted to read just something out of there, a couple little excerpts.
He says, “much more is involved in this requirement [that of raising our children in the paideia of the Lord] than simply establishing the scope and sequence of a formal Christian education. Formal education is essential to the process of paideia, of course, but the boundaries of paideia are much wider than the boundaries of what we understand as education. Far more is involved in this also than taking the kids to church or having an occasional time of devotions in the home, as important as such things are. And, more to the point, far more is involved than simply providing the kids with a Christian curriculum 8-3.
So the word paideia goes far beyond what we call formal education. In the ancient world, the paideia was all-encompassing and involves nothing less than the enculturation of the future citizen. Paideia for us then would include the books on the best seller lists, the major newspapers, the popular sitcoms and networks, the songs on the top forty lists, the motion pictures seen by everyone, the architectural layout of most suburban homes, and out at the periphery the fact that all our garden hoses are green.”
Melissa: That’s an illustration that I think is just intriguing. How far reaching this simple term of paideia is supposed to go. So, to sum it up, Douglas Wilson says, “paideia is not just bounded education, it is enculturation. Every aspect of enculturation.” I love that! That while the paideia is not limited to formal education or limited to going to church on Sunday or family devotions, we certainly see that those things are at the heart of paideia. So we ought to do nothing less than that, right? But how much more could we do?
So um, yeah, I think it would be great if you wanted to pull out The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson. And chapter thirteen is one of his treatises, you could say, on the paideia of God. And we’ve discussed this one at length actually this summer, and just sort of pondered a lot of the principles and discussed some of the methods – but really maximizing on those principles. What would you say stands out to you, Jenn?
Jenn: I think, so I’m looking at the book; in that first page, he actually has that quote from the other book, Melissa, that you just read from. But he says that it describes an entire way of life, and I think that also sums it up well. I recently read a quote from a classical education website, I think it’s called The Classical Difference, and they put it along these lines, the paideia: “paideia describes what we actually love, what we actually believe, the truth we actually believe, and what we assume about the nature of the world.” And that’s huge, right? And it also speaks to the fact that it’s not, it’s not just, I mean, in Ephesians, Paul’s saying, do this, raise your kids in the paideia of the Lord; but really everybody, regardless of worldview, has a particular paideia. Everybody has values and beliefs and presuppositions and loves. This is gonna happen to all of us. We’re all going to go through life developing a particular paideia. It’s just a matter of what they are, like what these particular values, beliefs, loves are, and how we get them. And the how can be intentional or it can just be something that happens to us.
Melissa: mmhm. Yeah. Cultural values is something, I think, you know we all are raised in a culture, those of us who are parents now were raised actually in a different culture probably than what we’re raising our children in, whether that’s simply because of the passage of time or a change in worldview – not all of us were raised with a Christian worldview but maybe that’s the worldview that we now have to raise our children in. I think that’s huge. Right? Also, our world is constantly changing and culture is developing and being reshaped continually out there as well. So even if we feel like, oh our home culture is, not static but that my worldview isn’t changing that much, it is changing outside too. And those elements do get in. So how do we proactively and reactively pursue a particular paideia within our homes? So yeah. The entire way of life. That’s so good.
I think what’s interesting is, you know, you said, what are our loves? And how what we think we love, what we say we love, may or may not be expressed in our life. So how have you experienced living out paideia in your home? Has it been different in your plan versus in its actual production? What have you found to be strengths and weaknesses with that?
Jenn: I think that there’s, I mean, there’s just always gonna be inconsistencies. Right? Because we’re sinners, and we’re never, like we’re shooting for these ideals and at the same time, I’m still like fleshing, thinking through, what even are these ideals? What does it, what does a joyful, robust Christian culture look like in a home? It’s not something I grew up with. So at the same time that I’m sort of coming to this understanding, and trying to by God’s grace, alongside my husband, flesh this out in my home, I’m also failing to execute this well. And so, I mean, that’s just repentance, right? That’s just repentance, putting that off. Getting before the Lord about that, and receiving forgiveness, you know, making it right with whoever was present who I need to make it right with and moving on. So there’s that element, where there’s that, you know, there’s those inconsistencies that you’re aware of and convicted of and you go to make right. But then I think there’s also, sometimes you’re not totally aware of the inconsistencies, and you might say that you value certain things, but that what’s actually coming out of your mouth – even if it’s not necessarily sinful, it’s just like, oh, you might not even realize that that’s not what I want. I don’t know, you almost have to take that step back sometimes, and sometimes you’re made aware of that. And sometimes it takes a while to realize that.
Melissa: yeah, absolutely. I think it, for me, definitely, sin nature is what pops into my head when I think, oh I have these plans or this set of – like you said, ideals – and it’s my sin nature compounded by the sin nature of my children that just makes it difficult to actually seek the Lord in all of these things. In every aspect of our home culture and our educational culture that we pursue. Now, you and I both homeschool, and so that also gives a particular opportunity for pursuing paideia in a specific way. So one thing that I think is important to note today is that, like you said before, paideia is for everybody. It’s for me as a mom as well as for my children, it’s for me as a homeschooler and you as a homeschooler, but it’s also for our sisters who are raising kids for Christ who are not homeschooling. Right? We mentioned before that idea of principles over methods, and so as we discuss paideia in the future, we’re going to be talking somewhat about homeschooling because you and I are both in that particular trench right now, but also including conversations about pursuing paideia outside of a homeschool setting. Hopefully bringing some friends into that conversation who have that experience as well.
Douglas Wilson, in this essay The Paideia of God, on page 109 says, “the Apostle Paul commanded Ephesian fathers to provide their children with a paideia of the Lord. This is not a command limited to enrollment in a Christian school. What Paul is requiring is nothing less than the establishment of a Christian civilization or culture. Paideia means enculturation and you cannot have Christian enculturation without a Christian culture.” And then on 111, this follows that, “Paul says the Scriptures are profitable as the foundation of our Christian paideia.” So that would be referencing back to 2 Timothy 3:14-16, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. And what is paideia if not instruction in righteousness? So that’s a beautiful place for us to start on these conversations. And Scripture, right, Scripture in our conversations, in our books, the artwork on our walls, coming out of our mouths when we are praying, when we’re frustrated, when we’re joyful – all of these things, these are opportunities to use what we say we love. Right? And Scripture ought to be at the foundation of that, regardless of your educational method or your own educational background or your own spiritual background. Right? I’ve been in a Christian home for 37 years, but that doesn’t mean that I am furthering along the road of pursuing paideia than someone who’s been in a Christian home for 7 years. So this is for all of us, and I think that’s what is so good about having these opportunities to discuss these ideals and these principles.
Now, we mentioned sin nature as one of our… well, as THE main hiccup in the pursuit of paideia. What would you say is one of your absolutes? What is a part of paideia that is just – if you had to just name one thing that is a core of paideia in your home – what would you say?
Jenn: well, I mean, the first thing that came to mind honestly was repentance. Because, I mean, I would say worship too, I would say prayer, I would say Bible reading – all of that. But the thing that feels most tangible, my most like felt need on a daily basis, is repentance… I love Mystie Winckler’s “repent, rejoice, repeat.” It’s not like a glum repentance. You’re rejoicing! You’re rejoicing in the Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength. And we want to be quick forgivers, we want to be quick to ask for forgiveness, we want to be quick to extend forgiveness, and then we move on. And then it’s forgiven, it’s dealt with, it’s removed as far as the east is from the west, we start over, His mercies are new every day. And that is just such a truth to hold onto.
Jenn: I mean, when it says that, you know, Paul, when he [Wilson] says that Paul is requiring nothing less than the establishment of a Christian civilization or culture, I have… it’s almost this vision I have in my mind that we’re laying the train tracks as the train is going over the tracks almost. Right? That we are putting this down as our children are the train cars like going on the track, and so it’s this, both, we’re building it while we’re trying to raise them in it. And we’re gonna, I don’t know, I mean, we’re gonna stumble. But we’re stumbling forward into the arms of a loving Father whose mercies are new every day, and who washes us clean and welcomes us, you know, with open arms. And so that, I don’t know, that is what I want my kids to grow up in. A joyful Christian culture where they know that they’re forgiven and that we take sin seriously but then we move on after it’s been dealt with.
Melissa: right, and that idea that sin, while… it’s not surprising, right? Sin should not surprise us because we know we’re sinners, and so that pursuit of repentance – we’re not raising our children or training our children to become sinless. Right? We’re not going to be sinless until we have reached glory. But that idea that we’re going to train ourselves and, God willing, our children to have quick repentance. Like you said, it’s that, what do we do when we sin? Not if we sin, when we sin. So yeah, I think it’s, that is repentance! That is huge. And repentance means turning away from, right, but that idea that you mentioned, Mystie Winckler’s little mantra “repent, rejoice, repeat” – there’s that repeat thing too.
Jenn: yes! Repetition!
Melissa: this is not one and done. But that’s not discouraging. That’s actually encouraging. So remembering that because His mercies are new every morning, when we sin again, or when our child sins again, what are we gonna do? We are just gonna repent, and we are going to then move on rejoicing. Yeah. The other thing you mentioned is what I would say would be one of my main paideia foundations. And that is, you know, worship. And obviously the word worship can mean different things for different people. Sometimes it’s the music portion of a church service, sometimes it is a church service, sometimes it is simply a time of set apart focus on the Lord whether it’s, you know, known as family devotions or personal quiet time… but that those kinds of things are worship. So I think, along with that repentance, which… to some extent is more of a reactive thing, right, because we know that we are going to stumble. Maybe we start with worship and the foundation of setting our hearts and our minds on things that are above, and that’s what we lay out for our children and for us as we begin a day of work or education or play or the Lord’s Day of rest. But that focusing our hearts and minds on Him and what He has done, that is pursuing the paideia of the Lord. And when we stumble, yes, I love how you put that: we stumble forward into our Savior’s open arms, and He then enables us to repent and because we are in His embrace, we can rejoice and move forward. So I love that. Worship and repentance – I think that sounds like an excellent way to just format this conversation moving forward. What are we talking about? The paideia of God, the enculturation of our children and our families for Christ, and that is not just education, it is all of life. And it starts with worship and it goes through repentance and it’s on repeat all the time.
So I really appreciate you taking the time to set apart some minutes with me today to talk about these things in this introduction. So in the future we’re going to talk more about this paideia. We are going to be discussing the paideia of God in general, we’re going to be discussing how the rubber meets the road for us as homeschool moms, and sharing resources that we love and that we find encouraging on this journey as we pursue this in our own homes and as we pursue these in our Paideia communities in the Spokane area of Washington state and the Atlanta area of Georgia.
So, Jenn, is there anything else that you wanted to share with us before we sign off today?
Jenn: no, thank you for having me.
Melissa: yeah! You can find us at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement, and updates on events that we’re hosting in our local areas.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. Thanks for joining us.
Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. Until then, peace be with you.
While it has been a bit of a soft launch while I worked to learn some podcasting ropes and tech practices, as of today, Paideia Conversations now has its first five episodes distributed across four major podcasting platforms… so it’s time to tell people about it! It’s always funny to try your hand at something new, and then to be brave enough to fling it out into the world for others to see. Thankfully, I am not alone in this venture! I am grateful to have the team at Paideia Southeast in my corner on this project. Jenn Discher has done three episodes (one is still in the cutting room) with me, and she is a gift. We have another one planned where I hope to get at least one more Paideia Southeast member on the mic with us. This first round of episodes is pretty much all about discussing paideia with mamas in the trenches: sharing ideas of what a Christian enculturation could includes, which varies from family to family. It is beautiful, inspiring, lovely, sharpening. Paideia is not something we do… it is literally the air we breathe. Or that’s the reality of it, whether or not we are intentional.
Please listen in ~ join the pursuit of godly paideia in your homes and the conversation of personal practical application. Leave feedback for us, and share it with your friends. There will be more interviews in the future, more team discussions, more ideas for pursuit of godly paideia, and more book discussions. We invite you to join our conversation. To the Kingdom!
Have you wondered what the philosophy of the Lord’s paideia might look like when implemented and pursued in real Christian families in our own era and locale? Paideia Conversations is a casual podcast where Christian mamas from Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast dialogue about all things paideia: interviewing others, discussing books, sharing their own glimpses of practical paideia around the home. Currently shared only on Spotify while we stitch up a few loose seams by knotting off some lingering threads, please chime in with your own thoughts, suggestions, or experiences. The paideia of the Lord is such a gift, and there is so much freedom. Our intent here is to increase joy, offer encouragement, share resources, pursue wisdom. We are eager to explore the vast array of ideas here. To the Kingdom!
Have you ever wondered who works to put on Paideia Northwest events, or where the idea came from in the first place? Amy Sloan from Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology interviewed Paideia Northwest founder Melissa Cummings in 2021, and you can watch the vlog version right here if you want to know more about the background behind your favorite annual event.
There is a big part of me that wishes the conference were today. I long for fellowship and encouragement… I long for rest! Yet, there is much left to be done over these next seven weeks, so I will seek to work hard six days of each week and rest for the glory of God on the Sabbaths in the meantime.
Today an email will go out to all conference registrants, speakers, and vendors ~ everyone who needs to know the ins and outs of what is coming on Saturday, November 13th!
We are still gathering orders for the year’s Paideia Northwest Rest tees, but only for another five days. Hurry to order now!
I have some great action items to pursue once October gets here, like putting in the final order and payment for the catering; finalizing volunteer teams; visiting the location to walk through where we will put what. There are always little things to tweak even at the last minute, but planning well in advance makes the chaos of the event day much less, and increases the chance for it to be more restful when November 13th arrives. I am thrilled to nearly be ready to do the beautiful details of table settings, conference journals, and name badges ~ those are what busy my mind and hands in the three weeks prior to the actual event.
There are also some fun announcements coming up at the conference… something to put on your calendar and something to pop in your ear buds, as well as tidbits about the fifth annual conference which plans are underway for 2022!
If you aren’t connected with Paideia Northwest on Facebook or Instagram, you are missing out on daily quotes that are urging our minds and hearts to settle restfully on Christ: who He is, what He has done for our salvation, and how He equips us to walk by faith in our daily living.
Do you have thoughts or share, questions to ask, or ideas to propose? Send me (Melissa) an email, and let’s have a conversation! PaideiaNorthwest@gmail.com
In 2020, tickets for Disciplined were sold out in two weeks.
In 2021, tickets for Rest have now sold out in eleven days.
Wow! I am so humbled and overjoyed that the Lord continues to orchestrate and bless the work of Paideia Northwest.
I am curious about what else He has in store for us, and what new avenues He is paving for the blessing of Christian families here in the Northwest corner of our country.
Registration for the upcoming annual conference is now closed, but you can still support the work of Paideia Northwest by purchasing a tshirt here.
Another thing you can do to encourage and support the work of Paideia Northwest is by sending me an email at PaideiaNorthwest@gmail.com with ideas for events or information that you would find beneficial as a Christian family raising children for the kingdom of God.
I have done most of the work here over the last 3+ years on my own, and I would love to have input from those of you who know the vision and long to share in the endeavor! Please connect with me, and prayerfully consider how the Lord may be asking you to pursue assisting Paideia Northwest as we move forward.
Stand fast in the faith and rest in our sovereign Lord!
With the launching of Paideia Southeast yesterday, I had new opportunities to meet (ie interact digitally in one way or another) the rest of their team. What a blessing to see the unity those women share, and the workload they are splitting. They have said, more than once, how impressed they are by the work I have done on my own here at Paideia Northwest. But here’s the thing: I may not have the teamwork aspect going strong on some fronts here… I do the website, the social media, and most of the planning/prepping for the annual conference on my own… but I have a wonderful team of women who support and encourage the work of Paideia Northwest through prayer and the crucial act of being a soundboard. Since 2018 I have had Mystie, Kirsti, and Abby praying alongside me and available to me for feedback and insight and conversation ~ they are such a gift to me, and I am honored to call them my friends. Since 2019 I have had Jess and Ashley locally offering prayers and feedback and conversation as well. And in 2020 Shawna locally and Heather at a distance jumped in to offer prayer and encouragement.
That is the beauty of Christ’s body. We support and encourage and participate according to our gifts and callings, but that looks different person to person and situation to situation.
I have also had the blessing of volunteers helping at the events for the last few years, in increasing number each year. I am learning to delegate! 🙂 And women are stepping up to bless this effort of serving one another in person. The more we share that weight, the less each person has to carry. I am slowly recognizing the immense beauty of that, and trying to find ways to welcome more women into the work.
If you are interested in helping do any kind of assistance with Paideia Northwest efforts, please send me an email at email@example.com
I would love to find more ways to bless mamas in the Northwest region of the US who are seeking to raise, train, educate, and nurture the next generation of kids for Christ. Want to help with an event? Want to sponsor something? Want to write an article? Want to feature us on your podcast? I am eager to hear your ideas and pursue mutual blessing.
We can pool our passions and resources to pursue and perpetuate the paideia of the Lord in our homes, communities, churches, and regions.
Today was a big day in the Paideia community… in fact, it is the day that Paideia Northwest grew into more than just one isolated group and actually can legitimately claim to be part of a community!
Paideia Southeast, headquartered just north of Atlanta, GA, officially launched today! While this is not a direct ministry of Paideia Northwest, I would definitely say you should consider us like family members ~ sister communities. Founding team leader Heather Tully and I were connected in 2020 due to mutual friends (the Scholé Sisters), and we began to walk together-while-distant through FitBit challenges… and then about eight or nine months ago we started chatting regularly through the voicemail app Voxer. Heather asked if I could mentor her through the idea of starting a Paideia Northwest community in the Southeast! I really could not have been more delighted. While I have felt fairly isolated and like I’ve been shooting from the hip since 2018 when I began Paideia Northwest, it has been invigorating to walk through the process and share my experiences with Heather… and I am so looking forward to gleaning wisdom and artistry from her as time goes on. She is such a dear friend, and just a gift. In just the last two months, I have also been able to chat with Jenn Discher on Voxer as well—the three of us have been discussing educational philosophy, principles of Christian paideia, and reading a book together on Classical Christian education. What a treasure to have the blessing of community and camaraderie even across distance!
But it is face to face fellowship and personal connection that is our real passion—and that is why real life events with flesh and blood community is at the heart of our Paideia pursuits. Perhaps it is no wonder that Heather and I connected thanks to our friends at Scholé Sisters, now that I think about it… because the motto there is that homeschooling is a marathon we need not run alone—find your sisters. And Heather has been exactly that to me. A companion on the homeschooling journey this year, and particularly as we endeavor to lead mamas in our regions to raise their kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, cultivating homes and educations for them which point them continually back to Christ, while growing and learning alongside one another. That is our aim and our prayer.
On Thursday, September 2nd, Heather and I will be sharing a slightly more in-depth version of our back stories, current endeavors, and future goals for our Paideia communities on the Instagram Live platform. You can follow us at Instagram.com/PaideiaNorthwest and Instagram.com/PaideiaSE to check it out.
And please stay tuned for more information here on what Paideia Northwest hopes to bring to the broader Spokane area (Pacific Northwest/Inland Northwest), and follow PaideiaSoutheast.com for all the upcoming blessings for our sisters in the opposite corner of the country.
Pray for us ~ we are likewise praying for you!