What’s one hour worth?: Guest Blogger Heather Horn

A Children’s Ministry Director’s Perspective on Parenting
What’s one hour worth? 
Let’s think about this first…Who is responsible for your child’s general education?  You?  School?  Both?  Do you help your child with homework?  Do you practice flashcards or help them study for a test? Do you meet with their teacher and do you follow up on any concerns you have?
Now, who is responsible for your child’s spiritual education?  You?  Your church?  Both?  Do you reinforce lessons at home? Do you help your child memorize scripture?  Do you meet with your child’s Sunday school teacher? 

Children’s Ministry professionals take great joy in teaching your children God’s Word, BUT we also realize we often only get ONE hour a week to teach this crucial information.  ONE HOUR…that’s 52 hours a year IF they attend every week.  Some of you have your children in 2 or 3 church activities, bringing them up to a possible 156 hours a year J.

Let’s compare that to a few other influences common among today’s children…
  • Ø  35 hours a week of school (well over 1,000 hours a year)
  • Ø  3-4 hours a week of TV; at a conservative 30 min a day (over 200 hours a year)
  • Ø  2+ hours of sports, dance, instrumental lessons a week
  • Ø  Time in daycare or with babysitters

Some of this may seem overwhelming.  As a Director of Children’s Ministry (DCM) this overwhelms me.  What can we do in one hour when children have all these other influences all week long?  I am not going for the guilt factor here.  I am a Mom too and we have enough guilt as it is, but I hope that we can all look at the bigger picture.  Where are we investing our children’s time?

This is why I know Children’s Ministry workers and parents NEED to be on the same team.  I always say, ”No parents, No Children’s Ministry!”  You are the ones who work on Bible verses with them, reinforce lessons, motivate them, model Christian behavior at home and literally transport them to church!  In my job I am always looking for ways to support parents, team up with them and come alongside the entire family.  I often think, “As a parent what would I want from my DCM? Better communication of what is happening in classrooms? Better curriculum?  Parenting classes?”  But how can I do this on such a large scale? 

My advice to you, the parents, would be to take full advantage of the Children’s Ministry Leaders at your church!  Whether that would be a full time Director, a Sunday School teacher, a Pioneer Girls leader…whatever the position, they are there because they want to invest in YOUR children!  Let them know what you need from them.  I promise they want to hear from you!  Ask them what your children are learning each week.  Ask for a schedule of Bible memory verses if not provided already. 
Take the initiative to introduce yourself to the Director or your child’s Sunday school teacher.  This will not only benefit your child (and you) but will encourage the people who work with you children.  They will realize you support them fully.  Remember most of the people who work with your children are volunteers!  Isn’t it great to know other Christian adults are investing in the lives of your children?  I’m sure that many of us can remember awesome Sunday school teachers or youth leaders we had that helped guide us in our Christian walk.  It’s important that you help to foster this important relationship. 
It may only be one hour a week but it may be one of the most important hours of their week! 

Ideas to reinforce Children’s Ministry at home:

  •  Write out or type Bible verses on larger paper and hang up where they will be seen often.  (i.e.: on the fridge, in a child’s room, in the car, even make them into a placemat for that week to be worked on daily over a meal)
  •   Don’t throw away those coloring pages or lesson papers.  Put them on the kitchen table when you get home from church and ask your children questions about the lesson over Sunday lunch. 
  •   Display papers brought home from Sunday school (or other ministries) just as you would school work, so it can be talked about during the week.
  •   Read all communication that comes home from your child’s class just as you would for school. 
  •   Use technology to your advantage.  “Like” your church’s children’s ministry Facebook page, check out the church’s website and get your director’s and teacher’s emails.  This way you will stay “in the loop” with upcoming events and can ask questions about your child’s progress. 
  •   Plan a short meeting with your child’s teacher or have them over for lunch or dinner.  What an encouragement that would be to them!  

      Heather Horn is the Director of Children's Ministries at Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ.  She is passionate about serving the Lord in this role but knows her best service to the Lord is through her role as Wife to her best friend Josh and Mother to two awesome little girls! 

Easter Crafts and More

7.         I have found some cute Easter crafts to do with your kids. The few displayed are from one of my favorite websites Disney Family Fun website. I have always been happy with their crafts and they have great recipes, articles and more. I have also included a cute easy snack called Carrot Patch Cookies.

Disney Family Fun Link:

Another website that I love is called Busy Bee Kids Crafts. This site is full of wonderful ideas and I refer to it all the time. Busy Bee has crafts for all ages and categorized so it is easy to find just what you are looking for and more.

Busy Bee Kids Craft Link:

Next week we will have another Guest Blogger. She is a dear friend and a Children’s Ministry Director so keep a look out for her and her perspective next week. Happy Crafting!

Magazine Mini Basket

Total Time Needed:
1-2 Hours
A tisket, a tasket: this colorful basket is created from strips of recycled magazines. Fill your container with shredded scrap paper for a greener take on Easter grass.

    Magazine covers
    Scissors and craft knife
    Clear tape


2. To make the base, cut a 9-inch square from a magazine cover. Use the ruler to draw a tic-tac-toe grid across the square, then cut it as shown, leaving four tabs (these will be the basket's sides).
3. With the craft knife, cut four slits in each tab as shown (an adult's job). Fold the four tabs up.
4. Cut more magazine covers into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Starting at the bottom, weave the strips in and out of the slits. When one strip ends, tape it in place, then begin weaving the next strip until all the sides are covered.
5. Tape on a strip to serve as a handle.
Younger kids might find it easier to make the base from card stock, which is a bit sturdier.

Tie-Dye Tuffets

    2 coffee filters
    Egg dye in various colors
    1-inch-tall segment of cardboard tube
    White glue

6. Fold each filter into quarters and dip its edges and point into a different-color dye. Unfold the filters and let them dry on a paper towel or draped over an empty egg carton.

8. When the filters are dry, fold them again and snip fringe along the edges. If you plan to make the collage eggs below, reserve the trimmings.

10.           Lay each filter flat. Lightly coat the outside of a tube segment with glue, then put it at the filter's center. Gather the filter around the tube, adhering it to the sides. Repeat with the other filter. (For small eggs, double up the tube segments, fitting one inside the other.)
Bonus Idea! Don't toss the coffee-filter trimmings from the tuffets; instead, use them to make pretty collage eggs. Simply brush hard-boiled eggs with watered-down white glue, stick on the trimmings, and brush the eggs with another coat of glue. Let them dry for an hour.

Melted Crayon Eggs

Total Time Needed:
30 Minutes or less
When the most humble of art supplies meets the shell of a just-boiled egg, the crayon wax softens, and the colors swirl together in a magical way. The results are fast, fun, and gorgeous.

    white eggs
    empty egg carton

11.           Hard-boil white eggs. Remove them from the hot water with tongs or a slotted spoon, dry them, and rest them in an empty egg carton or on plastic bottle caps (an adult's job).

13.           Color them with the crayons' tips or remove the paper coverings and use the crayons' sides. For a speckled effect, grate a crayon and sprinkle the bits over the eggs. The waxy eggs are very slippery, so take care when turning them to color the underside.
14.           When you're done coloring, leave them to dry for about an hour.

Carrot Patch Cookies

A crop of these tiny treats will add whimsy to any Easter or springtime celebration.

    Orange Mike and Ike candies
    Green gummy candy (we used Rips licorice pieces, which are flat)
    Nabisco Biscos sugar wafer cookies
    Chocolate frosting
    Chocolate wafer cookie crumbs

15.           To make each carrot, cut a slit in one end of a Mike and Ike candy with a sharp knife (an adult's job). Cut a small triangle from the green gummy candy (if needed, roll it flat), then fringe the base to form leaves. Tuck the triangle into the slit of the Mike and Ike and pinch it closed.
16.           For each carrot planter, place a wafer cookie base on a flat surface. Form the longer walls from two whole cookies and cut a third one to fit the shorter ends. Attach the pieces with frosting.
17.           To fill four planters, combine 2 tablespoons frosting with 2 tablespoons cookie crumbs. Fill each box with the mixture, then press three candy carrots inside. If needed, add more of the frosting mixture to hold the carrots in place.
We used Biscos because they're smaller than many other brands. If you use a larger cookie, increase the amount of frosting and cookie crumbs.

Homeschooling in Real Life: Guest Writer Susan Runnion

Homeschooling in Real Life

So what does homeschooling look like in real life?  I don't know what it looks like for everyone, because the cool thing is that it looks a little different for everyone.  There is so much information out there with regards to philosophies, curriculum, the daily grind, and outside activities.  I am here to break it all down and then give you a glimpse into what the bottom line is for us.

1.  Philosophies and Curriculum

The issue of educational philosophies and curriculum can actually be overwhelming!  Just type “homeschool curriculum” into a Google search and I'm sure you will be surprised with the amount of results that pop up.  There are so many homeschooling methods:  Classical, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Computer-based, textbook-based, and even something called “Unschooling.”  And on top of the method, there are so many options for curriculum that go along with each one.  When I first started homeschooling, I didn't know much about anything, and just assumed that what those around me were doing would work for us. 

Our Bottom Line:

The reality is: one-size-does-not-fit-all.  The beauty of homeschooling is that you can tailor your educational philosophy and curriculum to best fit the individual needs of your child.  Over the past few years, I have adopted a mainly “Charlotte Mason” style, and therefore I am choosing curriculum that coincides with that approach, which I believe is what is best for my children and our situation.  Basically, this approach encourages the reading of living books, as opposed to dry text books, narration, short lessons (which works well when you are dealing with little boys!), nature study, artist and picture study, music study, poetry, and forming good habits--something we are continually working on in this house! 

I definitely put a strong emphasis on reading really good literature with my kids.  And I am continually amazed at how much they really do understand and learn from books that I think are far above their heads.  Charlotte Mason, who was a British educator, believed that a child's mind ought to be respected and treasured, and that children should have strong meat and nourishment for their minds.  She also encouraged a lot of outdoor time, being in nature to be awed by God's creation, which is probably the best classroom of all!

You can learn more about the Charlotte Mason approach at http://charlottemasoneducation.com/ ,   www.amblesideonline.org, and www.simplycharlottemason.com.

2.  The Daily Grind

This aspect can, once again, vary greatly among homeschoolers.  Some choose to adopt a very scheduled, structured approach, and others implement a completely unstructured, entirely child-led learning approach.  Some start their school day at 7:30am, and others are much more relaxed.  Some have each half-hour increment scheduled for each family member, and others just go with the flow. 

Our Bottom Line:

I am, by nature, severely lacking when it comes to organizational skills and being very scheduled.  The first few years of homeschooling I really had no schedule at all...we just kind of got things done throughout the day.    This year, with 5 kids and 2 with some actual school work to do, I am trying to implement a daily schedule.  I started out with a very detailed one, and little by little it has gotten looser.  But I find that it does help us accomplish more, and at least gives me something to attain to.   I would be dishonest if I led you to believe that every day works as perfectly as it looks on paper.  We have good days and bad days!

One of the best things about homeschooling, for me, is that our mornings are very laid-back.  We usually eat breakfast at around 8:30.  After breakfast, if all goes well, our day looks something like this:

  • Chore time

  • Circle time (Bible, Scripture memorization, poetry memorization, hymns and folk songs)

  • Academic time (math, handwriting, phonics, foreign language, instrument practice)

  • Free time

  • Lunch

  • Quiet time

  • Read-alouds:   History, literature, poetry

  • Free time until dinner 
I think one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is that learning can take place at any time during the day...not just during “school time.”  This is why I think it has been important for me not to get too locked into the schedule.  There have definitely been days, looking back, when I have been so obsessed with the schedule that I actually missed out on opportunities to help my kids learn.  I am trying to find a balance between having a schedule, and also being spontaneous and relaxed, so we can delve a little deeper into an area in which a child is showing a particular interest. 

3.  Outside Activities:

There are so many activities outside the home that are available to homeschooled children today.  It is probably one of the things I have been most surprised about since we started.  There are gymnastics classes, ballet classes, gym classes, sports, academic and fine art co-ops.  There are numerous field-trips, workshops, and even seasonal parties, organized by homeschooling moms.  There are “Homeschool Days” at farms and educational centers.  I just recently discovered educational classes at the Liberty Science Center for homeschooled kids.  It is truly amazing the opportunities that are out there.

Our Bottom Line: 

Quite honestly, we haven't gotten involved in too many outside activities.  But the ones that we are involved in my children love.  My 3 oldest children attend a Junior Naturalist workshop at a wildlife sanctuary which has been wonderful.  They hike, picnic, and learn about the beautiful world God has made.  They take a nature journal along and are usually eager to draw what they have seen or learned about when they get home.

Another activity we do is a weekly Art Class.  I am so blessed because my twin sister also homeschools her 4 children.  Each week, we get together and do two projects:  an art lesson with the older kids, and a craft with the younger bunch.   Sometimes the projects come out great, and sometimes, not so much!  But art is a process, not a product, right?!  We also incorporate artist and picture study during that time.  And if it is a nice day, we sneak in a fun nature walk together. 

I have also joined a few Yahoo Groups for homeschoolers in my area, and through that I receive emails detailing field-trips and activities that are available.  Last week, my boys attended a felting class using the fur from alpacas, and this week we are headed to a maple sugaring demonstration.  This gives them a lot of interaction with other kids and adults, and many interesting learning experiences. 

Homeschooling Challenges 

Occupying Little Ones

This has been one of my biggest challenges, but also has been a norm for me from the beginning.  We are currently in our 3rd year of homeschooling, and since we've begun I have always had an infant, 1, or 2 year old, or a combination of those.  So often they want to “join in” at the table, and many times I do allow this.  But other times, like when my 2 year old is climbing on top of table throwing crayons all over the floor, it can become a bit taxing.

I have tried to arrange our daily schedule to accommodate this issue.  My 2 year old still takes a nap most afternoons, so I try to do our reading in the afternoon during that time.  Some days, if I need some time with one child in particular in the morning, I will have another child do puzzles or build blocks with him.  Other days, I will put on an educational TV program for him, or a sing-along video.  I know this is probably homeschooling sacrilege, but quite honestly there are many great educational shows on TV for kids.  As long as he isn't sitting in front of it all day, I am completely fine with it for a little while.

The most important thing for me, when it comes to dealing with my little ones, is my mindset.  This is my little child, not a problem!  There are days though when I can find myself thinking of them as a problem to be dealt with instead of a child to be trained and nurtured.  I constantly need to be keeping myself in check with regards to how I see my children.  I am also finding myself becoming more intentional about carving out little one-on-one moments with my kids during the day to make sure they know they are   loved and special individually.

Dealing with Interruptions

Dealing with interruptions goes right along with occupying little ones, because many times the little ones are doing the interrupting!  They can't help the timing of a dirty diaper, a thirsty mouth, or a bumped head.  I am learning to hold onto the daily schedule loosely, because when you have little ones you can't predict what the day will entail and when they will need you.

The beauty of homeschooling is that, if something doesn't get done, we can work on it over the weekend, or catch up over the next week or two.  There is so much flexibility that allows for these kinds of interruptions.  I recently read a quote that said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”  I printed it out and hung it in our kitchen, where we do some of our school work, to remind myself that relationships are much more important than accomplishing things.  I need this reminder on a daily basis. 


When I first began homeschooling, I have to be honest and admit that I felt a little inadequate to teach my kids.  After all, I don't have a degree in education and I don't really feel like I have the gift of teaching.  However, my initial thoughts about what education is have shifted dramatically from that first year.   And that shift is what has enabled me to realize that I am actually qualified to teach my children.

For most of my life, I viewed education as getting good grades in school, getting my degree, and going to college.  I did very well in school; I was good at memorizing the facts I needed to know to get an A on a test.  But that knowledge never really stuck.  I was more interested in doing well in school than actual learning.  When I initially started homeschooling, I still had that mindset.

The poet Robert Frost said, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”  Now my goal in educating my children has become to instill in them a love of learning.   A child's mind ought to be treasured, and my desire is to foster an atmosphere of learning in our home, expose my kids to great literature every day, ignite creativity, and get them in touch with God's beautiful creation.  I loved this quote from Albert Einstein: 

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.”

About the Author:
Susan Runnion is a wife and mother of 5, residing in northwestern New Jersey.  She loves cooking, baking, and spontaneous dance parties with her kids.

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