Parents: Teaching Spiritual Truths Requires The Right Kind Of “Time”

June 14, 2012

Faith At Home, Time

Do you know what is likely the most valuable gift you can give your children? It’s not your old pickup, a college education, or even your reputation for integrity. They’ll benefit from all of those things—but your children ultimately want more than your stuff, your wealth, and your good family name. What they want and need most is a relationship with you. They want to know your heart. They want you.   So one of the most important gifts that you can give your child is your time.

Something that Michelle Anthony said in her book Spiritual Parenting really stuck with me and it ties into this idea of giving our children that gift of our time.  She said,

“…our purpose as parents is to teach our children the awe inspiring wonder of who God is…”

As parents, we are our child’s first and most important teacher.  And teaching requires our time!  If you remember from a couple of days ago I blogged about the various types of “time” that teachers give their children/youth in the classroom.

Furthermore, I stated that these types of “time” were not, according to educational research, the best indicators of learning for children and youth!  Here’s why not:

Available learning time does not guarantee that a learner is learning anything during the class. Just because Sunday School is 60-minutes long doesn’t mean that 60-minutes of learning will occur. Time is available for learning but w/o purposeful instructional activity, learning will not occur.

Allotted learning time does not guarantee your learner will learn anything either. Just because you have allotted 40-minutes for your Sunday School lesson doesn’t mean learning will automatically occur. Again, w/o purposeful instructional activity occurring during the allotted time, learning will not occur.

Instructional learning time sounds good and it is a step in the right direction for transmitting knowledge! A lot of kids have benefitted from instructional learning time and it’s what most teachers strive for. However, you need to know that just because you are talking about Jesus and how much He loves them doesn’t mean that kids are ”absorbing it!” They could easily be daydreaming about a multitude of things. Why? Because they are not engaged with you or the curriculum.

I believe that these concepts of “time” have a direct application to how we use our time with our children at home:

  • Available learning time was defined as “the time that the learner walks in your Sunday school classroom until the time s/he walk out.”  At home, available learning time would be defined as “the time that your child wakes up in the morning until the time your child goes to sleep at night.” 
  • The problem with available learning time in the classroom is that it does not guarantee learning unless we have purposeful learning activities.  The same is true in our homes!  If we allow the whole day to go by without capturing teachable moments or creating family devotions then learning spiritual truths will not occur.
  • Allotted learning time was defined as “the amount of time that you have set aside for teaching your curriculum.”  At home, allotted learning time would be defined as “the amount of time a parent sets aside for teaching spiritual truths.” 
  • The problem with allotted learning time in the classroom is that just because you’ve set aside 40-minutes for teaching doesn’t mean it will happen.   There is a difference between setting aside time and actual doing something during that time!  At home, we can set aside a specified time or activity to teach spiritual truths but it actually requires that we spend time with our kids and do the activity at the predetermined time!
  • Instructional learning time was defined as, “the actual amount of time that the teacher spends in instruction with students.”  At home, instructional learning time would be defined as “the actual amount of time that a parent spends in instructing their child in spiritual truths.” 
  • The problem with instructional learning time is that it doesn’t necessarily result in learning!  It is a step in the right direction, but you need to know that just because you are talking about a topic doesn’t mean your child is mentally focused and attending!

So what’s the answer?  Using the time you invest in teaching your children spiritual truth by keeping them:  e-n-g-a-g-e-d.  The educational term for this is “academic engaged time” and was defined as, “learners who are responding to you and interacting with you and your curriculum.”  In other words, the time during which your child is oriented to the learning task and actively engaged in learning.

At home, academic engaged time would be defined as, “the time during which your child is responding to you and interacting with spiritual truths.” 

When kids are engaged they are paying attention to you, listening, asking questions, and actively participating in what you’re trying to teach them.

Here’s 5 ideas that you can use to keep your child engaged in learning:

  1. Use movement to get your child focused.  Ask your child to stand up and join in on a simple choreographed physical movements that accompanies a bible story or verse.
  2. If you have experience in theater, improv, or just like to have a little fun, teach a small portion of the lesson with an accent or imitating a bible character.
  3. With younger children, teach with a puppet or give a voice to a stuffed animal.
  4. Require your child to take notes. Every so often, have him do a quick, related sketch in the margins. For example, if you are learning about Noah, give him 60 seconds to sketch an ark in the corner of the paper.
  5. Let your child know at the start of the lesson that he will need to write down three things he learned as his “ticket out the door.”

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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