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When our children were still at home, the surefire sign of summer’s arrival came when the kids started raiding the family supply of empty squirt bottles for water fights. Then sometimes Dennis and I joined in the fun.

Although parents usually don’t stop to analyze it, most unconsciously realize that the family feels closer when members share jokes, laughter, and hilarious play times. Research shows that laughing and playing together do even more. Good laughter also develops creativity, increases physical fitness, reduces stress and helps people manage their problems.

For families looking for a vigorous laugh workout, here are a few ways to enjoy all out bouts of rowdy, boisterous fun:

Wrestling: Little guys love to wrestle with big guys—big brothers, uncles, grandpas, dads and friends. Older brothers do need to be warned not to overdo things. It takes a well controlled use of superior strength to keep sessions rowdy and fun without little ones getting hurt. Older children need to be sensitive to younger ones’ limits in strength and endurance.

(The New Games Foundation’s slogan is good to keep in mind for all forms of rowdy fun: Play hard, play fair, nobody hurt.)

Lion hunt: Somebody big is the lion, and the children are the prey. This game involves lots of growling, roaring, and chasing (on hands and knees) on the part of the lion, with lots of hiding, squealing, and giggling on the part of the prey. Again, be sensitive—otherwise this game can get too real and terrifying for small children.

Pillow fight: Everybody whops each other with pillows.

Newspaper fights: This is a game for children who are at least kindergarten age. It looks too aggressive and scary for most toddlers and pre-schoolers even to watch, much less participate. But it is a terrific way to have a hilarious half hour with teens and pre-teens.

Give everyone in the fight a short stack of newspaper. Everyone crumples their newspapers, sheet by sheet, into balls for ammunition. Then the free-for-all begins. If the whole family participates, this fight takes lots of space. The yard is a good place for it. Be sure to have a big garbage bag on hand to clean up afterward. (more…)

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Have you ever wondered what Sin looked like in the Bible story about the first murder, when God warned Cain that Sin was crouching at his door?

Well, perhaps not.

But in any case, here’s what Sin looked like last Wednesday in our homeschool Bible study. There he is crouching…

Crouching...

waiting…

Meanwhile, inside the summerhouse....

Meanwhile, inside the summerhouse….

… there’s a discussion going on about What Makes Me Jealous and My Choices When I am Jealous.

Oops! Somebody made a bad choice.

And that choice opened the door to Sin.

He pounces!

He pounces!

For the last six weeks I’ve been meeting with seven kids, a couple of my young mom friends, and a retired nurse for Bible study. The children range in age from 4 months to 12 years old. This is not your typical women’s Bible study, although we do try to spend an hour in an adult study. Nor is it a children’s neighborhood Bible Club, although we also spend an hour singing and teaching Bible to the kids. It’s a multi-generational inductive Bible study, where we study a passage together as adults, then turn around and draw the children into an inductive Bible study of the same scripture in the way that kids do inductive Bible study.

Which is – through the arts.

Taylor’s Comic Strip -1-
The Fall (Genesis 3)

During my four years as an undergrad at the University of Iowa, the most practical training I received came to me not from my professors, but from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s staff, who introduced me to inductive Bible study in small groups and then gave me hands-on training in this commonsense 3-step process of:
1. Observing (noting facts)
2. Interpreting (analyzing)
3. Applying (determining the significance of)
the text of the Bible for yourself first — instead of going to commentaries and other books to read what others have to say about the passage.

The method uses good questions to engage your mind in discovering for yourself what the Bible says, what it means, and how it applies to your life.

I enjoyed this so much that when I went home for Christmas vacation, I gushed enthusiasm about studying the Bible to all the kids in my former youth group who had gone off to college, too. Unlike me, they were enrolled in Christian colleges.
And they were put out with me.

Why?

Because they were taking Bible classes in approved Christian schools and they didn’t see what there was to get so excited about.

Their bewilderment made me even more aware of the power and joy of discovering new things for oneself. It helped me understand why research shows people remembering more of what they say themselves than what they hear from others, and more of anything they figure out for themselves than what others tell them.

Good questions help discovery in any subject area. They have the power, though, to do even more in Bible study. For although the Bible is not the only place where we can meet God, it is our primary place, the place where we are most likely to encounter Him when we are looking. We get distracted, though. We find it hard to concentrate on our reading. But good inductive questions help us focus. They make us dig into the text. They prod us into engaging with the words, and the next thing we know, we are engaged with the Word Himself.

Today there is a flood of helpful inductive Bible study guides and other materials on the market, including whole Bibles published with inductive Bible study inserts. But when I was a college student, there was little material available. So my staff worker encouraged me to write the inductive questions for our student conferences.

Then I graduated, married, and had children. I began to wonder if it would be possible to teach the inductive Bible study method to kids. Could children observe, interpret and apply the Bible?

After I experimented a bit by creating an intergenerational Bible study class, Joann Collins, the wife of our church’s education pastor, asked me to help her develop Sunday School curriculum using learning centers. Her request for learning centers pushed me into realizing how to teach kids to observe, interpret, and apply the Bible for themselves.

First, I saw that the Bible takes hold on our imagination and starts renewing our minds when we are somehow motivated to process the material. Adults take hold in this way when good questions prod them to write down or to discuss the observations, interpretations, applications, prayers, etc. that flow from their reading. In other words, adults tend to process material by writing about it or talking about it.

But second, I realized that children don’t do that. They process Bible material better through the arts – storytelling, music, the visual arts, drama, and dance/creative movement. Here, for example, is 4-year-old Ada processing an application question (draw a picture of a time when you were jealous):

Ada Drawing: Jealousy             Ada Being Jealous

(Note: When Ada drew this picture, I told the moms that it would be OK if she just got so carried away with the Joy of Markers that she didn’t stick to the point and draw a jealousy experience. Pre-schoolers get very immersed in the media itself. They may not be ready to follow additional directions as well, like answering a question using the media. But Ada was working alongside older children (ages 8, 10, and 12) who were drawing pictures and talking about them, which probably helped her get the idea. She stayed on task and dictated an explanation of her drawing to her mom. We could have asked the older kids just to talk about their jealousy experience before playing the Sin Crouching game, in which case, the lesson would have taken less time. But since Ada was there too, we asked all the kids to draw a picture first. Ada was young enough to need the extra step of drawing her idea before discussing it, and the other kids enjoyed talking about their pictures, too.)

Back to the subject of my experience with inductive Bible study for kids: For the next two years that Joann’s husband was on staff at the Albuquerque Christian Center, she and I developed adult inductive Bible study material for parents and Sunday School teachers and worked with a team to develop inductive curriculum for children on the same scripture passages as the adults, but using a variety of hands on projects: visual art (drawing, painting, printing, sculpting, bookmaking, crayon techniques, and on and on), drama (charades, pantomime, puppet theater, shadow theater, masked drama productions), game inventing, creative writing (song writing, play writing), creative movement, you name it. In retrospect, we could have done kids’ inductive Bible study more simply, but so many young artists became involved in helping us that we were able try more elaborate projects along with the simple ones. We all had a lot of fun, and many worked together to build a Sunday School that engaged the children’s bodies, minds and hearts.

Along the way, we evaluated the curriculum according to the three steps of inductive study and to what children could do at the end of the lesson that they couldn’t do at the beginning. If the object of the lesson was observation, could they retell the story accurately in some form? If the object was interpretation or application, could they express or demonstrate the meaning or a life application?

I moved with my family to another state after that, and there we began the adventure of homeschooling. Once again the inductive approach helped me. I developed our family’s curriculum for studying not only the Bible, but all subjects on all grade levels using an art-based, hands-on approach. The inductive method applies across the curriculum.

A few weeks ago, Joann phoned and asked me to help her develop inductive Bible study curriculum again, this time for a parochial school. So, in order to help her and the teachers at the school, I have decided to start blogging about Inductive Bible Study for Kids. I hope that what I’ve learned over the years will be useful not only for the teachers at Calvary Chapel Academy, but for parents, homeschoolers, intergenerational classes, home and cell churches, pastors who want to coordinate children’s ministry with their sermon texts, and many other ministries that work with children and want to encourage them to engage with the Word.

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Mom used to call my dad the Pied Piper. When he showed up in the yard, kids began appearing like magic. (more…)

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Recently a friend asked me how she could do a better job getting her three active boys to behave in the car. She described the family’s last car trip. They were hurrying to a church meeting on a school night, but the boys (ages 4 to 10) kept fighting and arguing loudly while she and her husband tried to talk. Finally she lost her temper., which made her husband upset, and there they were, in a  family meltdown. (more…)

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For eight years I wrote a short parenting tips column for The El Paso Scene. The column featured one tip for each day of the week, and I tried to give parents a balance of tips that would address their own priorities & attitudes as well as their children’s physical, social, intellectual and spiritual development. The column was formatted so that parents could easily cut out the column and keep it as a handy reminder through the month. Here is a sampler for the month of October

How to Be a Better Parent in October

On Sundays… Remember to take regular walks for health, perspective and renewal.

On Mondays…Try to avoid the mistake of assuming that anything that belongs to your child is really yours, so you can borrow it without permission or do whatever you please with it. Respect is a two way street. If you want children to learn to respect your property, you must respect theirs and insist that siblings respect it, too.

On Tuesdays… Remember that children need to practice reading aloud every day. So encourage older children to read to younger siblings, and let beginning readers read to anyone in the family with the patience to encourage them.

On Wednesdays… Remember the power of action. Although it’s a temptation to sit and yell “Don’t- don’t-don’t” at children, it only makes you frustrated and hoarse. Children consistently test their parents’ words. So discipline yourself to get up (now! after the first request) and match your words with action. When you are consistently firm without losing your temper, children learn to pay attention.

On Thursdays… Make a list of recipes your family likes, take a few minutes to refer to it each week, and plan a week’s meals before you go to the grocery store. Keep alert for recipes that can easily be made in the crock pot. These few minutes of planning will help keep everyone in the family healthy.

On Fridays…Remember that puppets invite creativity. They stimulate preschoolers’ natural acting ability and encourage older children to devise plots, produce sound effects, design scenery, and create special effects. A lot of household junk can be recycled into puppets.

On Saturdays… Cultivate contentment. It will move your family into a deeper level of gratitude than mere etiquette. Contentment involves recognizing what can and cannot be changed for the better. It means accepting what cannot be changed, changing what can be improved, and concentrating on whatever is positive in a situation.

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The Southwest Homeschool Network asked me to give a presentation for parents of Reluctant Readers for their conference last weekend. I don’t live with a reluctant reader anymore (he turned into a book-lover, grew up and left home) so I am lucky to have one who comes and visits me to remind me all about it. J is a first-generation American 12-year-old from a Spanish-speaking home, and he recently had to make the switch from a bilingual program at school to all-English. He told me once how discouraged he felt with it, so I said he could come once a week and we’d see what we could do.

J spent the whole evening here last Wednesday. A lot of that time didn’t seem to have a thing to do with reading, but as I recalled that evening in the light of preparing for my presentation, really it ALL had a lot to do with reading. For example, when J’s mom drove him to my house, she had most of the family with her – four kids and her 80-year-old father. She and her teenage daughter needed to talk to me in the kitchen, so Grandpa stretched out on the grass under the mulberry tree in the front yard, and J ran off to the back yard with his two little sisters. There they found our granddaughters’ abandoned makeshift sandbox, their plastic containers, and a bucket of water. So they made a fancy cake out of wet sand in one of the plastic containers. They smoothed it and decorated it with pinecones – very artistic. And then of course, they had to show it to me when I finished talking to their mom. And of course, we conversed about it.

That’s where the first reading connection came in. (more…)

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Playing in the rocks in the driveway or messing around in a little makeshift sandbox that Dennis made for them in an old plastic drawer are other activities that keep our visiting 4-year-old Tweety and 2-year-old Doodle absorbed and happy for hours. I bought them some little trowels and rakes at Wal-Mart, and it was money well spent. But if I hadn’t made the trip to Wal-Mart, they would have stayed just as happy with old spoons and plastic containers. They got pretty dirty, of course. That’s one thing about pre-schoolers…the activities that keep them happiest seem to be messy.

I remember when my own kids were preschoolers, on rainy days I used to let them play in an indoor “sand”box, which I made by pouring 5 or 10 pounds of cornmeal into a plastic dishpan. It kept them happily occupied for long spells. When they finished playing in it, I had a little sweeping to do to clean up, but I thought a little sweeping was a small price to pay for the luxury of being able to focus on my own project for a half hour without interruptions. Later, after my kids had outgrown indoor sandboxes, a friend showed me her version, which used unpopped popcorn kernels for the sand. Running my fingers through that popcorn was a tactile delight. I think if I had small children around a lot today, I’d go for the popcorn sandbox.

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