This may turn out to be the most controversial post I have ever written. I know a few other parents who don't read fiction to their children so I thought abstaining from fiction was somewhat commonly done. Then I asked a simple question in our Facebook Group a few months back. “Do you read fiction to your children?” At the time, I was wondering whether or not I should use a curriculum called Illuminations with my children. What ensued was a lengthy discussion that went on for two weeks! I barely chimed in and I was surprised that people felt so passionately about this. (And yes, I did decide to use Illuminations and I love it… I just skip the fiction component and focus on their strong historical component.) Soon after, I was challenged to write a series of blog posts for the Christian Homemaking Community's Summer Blook Club. One assignment was to recommend my favorite fiction books. Since I don't read fiction myself, I had nothing to recommend. This post was my response to that challenge. Please take this post for what it is (a description of what my family does) and keep in mind what it is not (me telling you what to do with your children.) =)
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Disclaimer: I Am NOT Your Family's Holy Spirit
What I am about to share is simply our family's conviction for what we believe God wants us to do with our children. How you should raise your children is something I leave between you and God. I know my readers to be intentional, diligent parents and I know first hand that parenting isn't easy. What I present below is our family's journey and I trust that you will seek out the Lord when deciding how to parent your own children.
So, Why Don't I Read Fiction to My Children?
Very early in our parenting journey… right around the time that we were face to face with our first positive pregnancy test… back when we were idealistic enough to think we could get this parenting thing RIGHT and not make any mistakes (Please stop laughing so you can read the rest of this blog post!)… Papa the Farmer and I decided that our #1 rule in parenting would be Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Over the years we have made a lot of mistakes, but one thing we've noticed is that we only mess up when we stray away from what God tells us in His Word. When we take advice from the God who created parenting, we get it right. So when God says “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest… think on these things” not only do we want to do this ourselves, but we want to train our children to focus their thoughts on what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. Fiction – by nature – is simply not true. God says to stay away from anything that is not true, so we do.
“But Jesus Used Parables to Teach!”
Yes, Jesus did use parables to teach, always in the context of teaching spiritual truths, never simply to entertain (See Matthew 13:11). Many of His parables began with the words “The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto….” Christ's stories were illustrations that took the mysteries of Heaven and explained them to us using every day examples that we could understand. The end result of Christ's stories was that his listeners had a huge “Ah-ha!” moment. “Oh, THAT is what God means when He says to love my neighbor…. THAT is the kind of faith we are supposed to have…. THAT is the passion with which we are to seek after God.” We know that we are selecting profitable reading materials if what we read to our children answers questions about the nature of God and the Kingdom of Heaven.
My Personal Experience: A Polluted Mind
As much as I love to read, I struggled as an adult with developing a love for God's Word. I saw other women who yearned to spend time in God's word and spent their days anticipating their quiet time with God. That wasn't me. I would open my Bible. Read the same 3 verses six times and still not remember what I had read! I came to realize that spiritual things are spiritually discerned. By filling my mind with things that are not true (television and fiction) I was in violation of the Philippians 4:8 principle (above) and I was the one breaking the continual communion with God that Christians are called to have. I couldn't keep my mind fully stayed on God if I was filling it with things that distracted me from God. I set out to retrain my mind and my tastes so that I would appreciate and genuinely enjoy my time spent in God's Word.
The spiritual battle for our souls is unseen, but it is very real. Satan has thousands of ways of creeping into our minds to distract us from serving the Lord. As Christians, we must stand guard against Satan. As Moms and Dads, it is vital that we win this battle because we are shaping the next generation. If you struggle to love your time in God's Word, know that you are not alone and your case is not hopeless. Feel free to email me for encouragement! Two free online resources that have helped me tremendously are:
The Bible Reading Program For Shirkers and Slackers
Good Morning Girls Bible Studies (It's not just for women! Look up the S.O.A.K. method and color charts in the sidebar!)
You Have To Draw The Line Somewhere
The fact of the matter is that each family – whether you read fiction or not – has to draw the line between “acceptable in our home” and “not acceptable in our home” somewhere. The boundary needs to be clear so that there is no confusion when children begin selecting their own reading materials or when well-meaning relatives give your children books as gifts. A subjective boundary is subject to change on a whim, but a boundary based on principle will teach our children to be intentional about their choices.
Our choices are a reflection of our priorities. I am in a season of life where my priorities have changed. I have 4 children, I'm homeschooling 3 of them. I'm trying to be intentional about my marriage. We're trying to run an online business and a farm. Somewhere in all that I need to cook and clean and make sure my family has clean underwear to wear. Life is busy! Honestly, if I have time to sit down with a book, I don't want to get up an hour later and feel like that time was lost. Charles Jones is widely quoted as having said, “We will be the same person in 5 years that we are today except for 2 things: the people we meet and the book we read.” When I do have the opportunity to sit down and read, I want the book I am reading to be something that changes who I am for the better.
This Is Not About Legalism
Some of you are going to say that I am being legalistic. I'm not. I don't abstain from fiction in order to earn God's favor. I already have God's favor (and so do you!) I don't abstain from fiction so that I can be more-saved than my fiction-reading friend. Salvation is a free gift from God. All I have to do is accept it and out of love and thankfulness to Him I want to obey God and be like Him. Matthew 5:48 tells us “Be ye perfect, even as your father which is in Heaven is perfect.” I can behave in ways that damage my character and cause me to be unfit for the kingdom of Heaven. I can unwisely teach my children to do things that will make them unfit for the Kingdom of Heaven. In our home, it is our conviction that we best equip our children to serve in God's Kingdom by pointing them always toward what is true.
What Does A Fiction-Free Homeschool Look Like?
I'm getting a lot of questions about how I homeschool my children if we don't read fiction. God is the author of History, the creator of Geography, the inventor of Science and Mathematics. He is an integral part of each subject of our homeschool! Just because we don't read make-believe stories doesn't mean that we are limiting their education! Our family uses the Illuminations program by Bright Ideas Press. They're the folks who publish Mystery of History, a 4 year Bible-based history curriculum. The Illuminations Scheduler helps me plan Geography, Science, History and Language Arts lessons from a Biblical perspective. They offer a strong literature component that complements the history and geography lessons and we use some (but not all) of their literature recommendations. We use Math U See for math, Rod & Staff English for grammar and Training Our Daughters to Be Keepers At Home for Home Economics. The formal part of our curriculum is packed full of good, solid information and learning useful skills.
Another source of books that we love is Usborne Books & More. We pick and choose our Usborne books, because they do offer a wide selection of fiction and some of their non-fiction contains evolution. But the Usborne Books that we have chosen are fiction and evolution free and they are fabulous! We love that they are so interactive and the children learn such good information from them! The Lift-The-Flap Books are so much fun and are definitely a favorite at our house! Another favorite are the shine the light books which are best at bedtime. You shine a flashlight behind the page and secret pictures appear teaching about parts of nature that don't always meet the eye!
Here's a sampling of some of the types of non-fiction books we enjoy reading. The options seem endless!
Before You Leave A Comment…
This is a place for friendly discussion. You don't need to agree with me. In fact, I'll be surprised if anyone agrees with me on this one! Due to spam, I have to moderate all comments. I WILL approve comments that disagree with my point of view, but I will NOT approve comments that are derogatory or disrespectful in nature (no name calling or bad language, please). We had a wonderful discussion about this in our Facebook Group a few months ago and I know the discussion in the comments will be equally thought provoking and challenging! I can't wait to read what you have to say. Please chime in!