Paideia Conversations, Ep. 2

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

Amy Sloan & her hubby share about family devotions in this podcast episode

Trinity Psalter Hymnal

Church history books by Simonetta Carr

Heroes of the Faith series by Sinclair B. Ferguson

Books by Richard Hannula

Seeds Family Worship

Steve Green Hide ‘Em In Your Heart

GT and the Halo Express

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!

Amy: yes.

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.

Melissa: have you read the books by Richard Hannula? Trial and Triumph, Radiant

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.