Circumstances recently have caused me to reflect on why, exactly, we chose to homeschool as we did with an eclectic “hands-on” approach.

I could tell you that I enjoyed my children’s company and didn’t want to miss a minute, and that would be true. I could explain how learning in context prepares children for real life like nothing else can, and that would also be true. But at the deepest level we chose to homeschool and to do so in the context of real life because of God’s word to His people in Deuteronomy 6:6-7…

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (NASB)

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. (The Message)

As I read this verse in several translations, a few precepts stand out, and I think if we miss these, we’ll miss the whole point of everything we’re trying to do:

These words, these commands, shall be written on your hearts. It’s not enough to memorize verses to win at Bible Drill. It’s not enough to learn how to “act nice” and “be good.” God’s teachings aren’t suggestions or “a pretty good way to live.” They are commands. They must be the only way, truth, and life to me, engraved on my heart until nothing else matters by comparison. I must start there–with me surrendering everything I am and dream of to God. I cannot give my children something I don’t possess myself. I can’t leave them a legacy that was not first my own. God is patient. He is not after legalistic obedience, but graciously conforms us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29) and works in us until we are willing and able to fulfill His purposes for our lives (Phil. 2:13). Even the faith to believe comes from Him (Eph. 2:8), but I must lay down my own ways and respond to His. Weakness, trouble, and failure will eventually corrupt those areas where I have not yielded my heart to live for Him.

Impress them on your children. Teach them diligently. Once we determine to write God’s commands on our own hearts, we can impress on our children the wisdom and importance of following Him without seeming to be hypocrites. How can I expect to convince my children if I am not convinced, myself? But as they walk with us and watch us struggle with the difficulties, challenges, and realities of life diligently seeking God and determined to please Him, we have opportunities to teach them many things.

Talk about them at home, when you’re out, first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Pleasing God is to be a major topic of conversation, but do you know that the average parent in Great Britain spends less than twenty minutes a day talking to their children? That’s barely long enough to share a meal, check homework and schedules in the car, remind them to feed the dog, and read a quick story as we tuck them in. If that seems sad to you, you should know that in America it’s worse. The average American parent spends only seven minutes a day talking with their child. I was horrified to hear parents at my own church confirm this as they eagerly bought a “relationship manual” that promised to teach them to talk to their children for thirty whole minutes a day! One mother’s greatest fear was that she “wouldn’t know what to say” for such a long time! What kind of job could I do if I only showed up for 7 minutes a day or half an hour on a “good day”?!? This does not fit my definition of “diligence”, and I rather doubt it’s what God had in mind, either.

I can't teach my children anything important if I spend only 7 minutes a day talking with them! Click To Tweet

I had to search my soul honestly. Was there really anything more important to me that pleasing God and raising my children to enjoy His pleasure as well? If that was my priority, then I would need to be diligent about making opportunities to be available to talk with my children in the morning (preferably after coffee), tuck them in at night, work alongside them at home, and share life with them wherever we went.

Hands-on homeschooling in the context of real life was a good fit for those priorities.

There’s an added benefit, and we find it in Deuteronomy 6:8. It’s especially clear in The Message:

Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. I think this means that God’s Word should always be part of what we do and how we think. This is how we change our natures.

Inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes. Let God’s Word be the identifying mark that characterizes our homes. This is how we change our families and make them strong and welcoming.

And inscribe them on your city gates. This is how we change our culture…and have we ever stood more in need of genuine godly leaders?