S7 E19 | Seven Steps for Cultivating a Heart for God, Pt. 1 (Jeannie Fulbright)
Charlotte Mason offered beautiful and sound advice for nurturing our children's relationship and love for the Lord. This divine task is in the hands of parent, and the primary feature of a living education. It is our privilege to set before our children new thoughts of God and new hopes of Heaven. But how do we do this? It can seem daunting and perhaps discouraging in light of our own failings and faltering in our own walk with the Lord. The good news is that our children have a natural inclination towards the things of God, a divinely inspired desire for Him. And our job is made easier with the help of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit as our children's primary instructor. To simplify the process of ushering in the atmosphere that will naturally nurture the Divine Life in a child, in this episode, Jeannie will share the first 3 of 7 steps for cultivating a child's heart for God based on the teaching of Charlotte Mason and the Bible.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast that is all things Charlotte Mason and her tried and true philosophy of education, designed to help you homeschool with more confidence, joy and success. It is our hope that you'll find golden nuggets that will transform the way you think and the way you homeschool. I'm your host, author of the bestselling Charlotte Mason Science Curriculum, Jeannie Fulbright, and I am so glad you joined me today.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show. I'm so glad you joined me. This is going to be the first of a two-part series on cultivating your children's heart for the Lord. And these next two episodes are actually going to be the season finale because our season ends at the end of May, and we usually take the summer off and start again in the fall. So I am happy to be ending with such an important message for you, because what is more important than ushering our children into a personal relationship with the Lord and cultivating an atmosphere that truly honors the Lord and brings our children closer to him. And this does fall under the category, the Charlotte Mason category of atmosphere. She says, "We are limited to three educational instruments—the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas."
Jeannie Fulbright This cultivating our children's heart for the Lord is part of how we cultivate an atmosphere in our home. It's a living atmosphere. Charlotte Mason says, "The earliest and most important ministry of the educator is to fuel in our children a longing for things lovely, honest and of good report. And Charlotte Mason says that we do this through cultivating a thought environment. She says, "...which surrounds the child as an atmosphere which he breathes and is his breath of life." And this atmosphere inspires our children to write living, and all of it emanates from the parents. And so this is what she's talking about when she says we're limited to the atmosphere of our environment. It's creating and cultivating a living appetite in our children for things of God. Charlotte Mason says, "There is no way of escape for parents; they must needs be as 'inspires' to their children, because about them hangs..." about us, as parents, hangs "...as an atmosphere around its planet, the thought-environment of the child, from which he derives those enduring ideas which express themselves as a life-long ‘appetency’ towards things sordid or things lovely, things earthly or divine." Essentially, the atmosphere of our home should inspire our children to have an appetite for the divine. The atmosphere is about nurturing the divine life in our children.
Jeannie Fulbright And that's really what a living education is all about, it's about acknowledging the One who is the One who sustains all of life. Truly, that's what the living education is. Charlotte Mason says, "Education is a living force." And she says, "The impact of the divine upon the human which generates life, without which there is no living." No living education either. "The life is there, imparted and sustained from above." Our job is to usher our children into a relationship with a living God. And so our duty, our calling as home educators, as parents, really, is to cultivate an atmosphere that is conducive to our children growing in their walk with the Lord. Charlotte Mason says, "We have something to do here. Spirit, like body, thrives upon daily bread and daily labor, and it is our part to set before the child those new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven which should be His spiritual diet, and to practice him in the spiritual labors of prayer, praise and endeavoring." So this is what we're going to be talking about today, is understanding how to cultivate this atmosphere that ushers our children into and cultivates their divine life, their relationship with God. And I talked a couple of episodes ago about how important it is to understand that our children are persons. And this is really where it all sort of comes together. Children are divine beings with eternal souls, and they have a divinely given curiosity that should be nurtured and valued and respected. And we'll talk about that in a little while, but this idea Charlotte Mason says, "It is a divine task." And she says, "It is as the mother gets wisdom liberally from above, that she will be enabled for this divine task."
Jeannie Fulbright So I'm going to share with you seven...I would say not steps, but maybe seven ideas, seven ways to cultivate our children's heart for the Lord. But really, as Charlotte Mason says, that we in our home is unique, and God's plan and purposes for our children is unique so we need to make sure that we are seeking wisdom from above, because God will direct us uniquely. So I'm going to talk to you about seven things that Charlotte Mason talks about in cultivating our children's heart for God, but just know that God has unique ways that He wants you to do that in your family, and he will show you as you seek him.
Jeannie Fulbright So the first thing, the first step, I guess, is we should recognize and acknowledge that God is the chief instructor of our children's hearts, that we are really just in cooperation with him and he is the one who wants to teach them, to grow their hearts, to grow their relationship with him. Charlotte Mason said we should teach our children that "the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life." Letting our children know that God loves them, adores them, created them, and sees them as beautiful, divine beings that are going to live with him forever in heaven and he wants to speak to them, to talk to them, to counsel them, to be their Continual Helper in all of their interests, all of their curiosities, all of their duties and requirements, and all of the joy that they're going to experience in life comes from him and he wants to be there for them continually, and helping our children to recognize that God is always there and always willing and wanting to be in relationship with them. I think it's a great idea to explain it in something like these terms—imagine if your child never spoke to you, but you were always there and they came in in the morning and never said a word to you, but you provided their breakfast and they just don't even acknowledge that you are the one that has the tools for giving them breakfast. They don't ever speak a word to you. They just sit down, they eat their breakfast, and then they go about their day and they never look at you or acknowledge you. That would be pretty, well not just rude, but absurd. And even though we cannot see God, he is constantly there, and by pretending that he's not or acting like he's not, it's kind of, well, rude and absurd. Because he's always there. So we should be continually talking to him. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. That's just being in a dialog with God continually throughout the day, acknowledging that he's there, that everything good comes from him. James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." And I think helping our children to understand this is going to be foundational in ushering them into a relationship with God and cultivating their walk with God.
Jeannie Fulbright And number two, I would say cultivating a reference for the word of God and doing this by reading the word of God to our children. So a few things that Charlotte Mason said of the reading of the Bible. She says, "A word about the reading of the Bible. I think we make a mistake in burying the text under our endless comments and applications." She says, "The Word is full of vital force, capable of applying itself." And that's because the Holy Spirit is active when we're reading the word of God to our children. We need to recognize that, go back to number one, God is the chief instructor of our children's heart. And when we're reading a Bible story or reading the Scripture to our children, we need to recognize that God is there speaking to their hearts, especially as we're reading the Word, because their hearts are focused on the living Word of God, and it is full of vital force, capable of applying itself.
Jeannie Fulbright And she says, "A seed, light as thistle down, wafted into the child's soul will take root downwards and bear fruit upwards." She says, "What is required of us is, that we should implant a love of the Word; that the most delightful moments of the child's day should be those in which his mother reads for him, with sweet sympathy and holy gladness in voice and eyes, the beautiful stories of the Bible." She says, "Let the child grow so that new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven are a joy to him. Things to be counted first amongst the blessings of the day." And of course, she gets her warning, which we've all heard. She says, "Above all, do not read the Bible at the child. Do not let any words of the Scriptures be occasion for gibbeting his faults. It is the office of the Holy Ghost to convince of sin, and he is able to use the word for this purpose without risk of hardening the heart in which our clumsy dealings too often result." Charlotte Mason always emphasizes the fact that God is our children's chief instructor, but that our many, many words often crowd out the Holy Spirit and the work that God wants to do in their hearts. And so when...especially when we're reading the Word of God, we have to trust that the Holy Spirit is at work. He is at work in their hearts, and he is cultivating in them the spiritual fruit that he wants to cultivate.
Jeannie Fulbright And so it's really about faith and believing that God is working in our children, and not that we're responsible for growing our children's faith and we have to talk and talk and talk and explain and tell them the Bible lessons that maybe we learned or are thinking of or that we think they need to know. But actually read the word and let the Lord do the teaching. And this is really about faith. It really is. It's about trusting that God is speaking to your children's hearts. And again, when we talk so much and apply so much and give the moral lesson...the moral of the story to our children, then we have done their thinking for them rather than allowing them to mull over the verses or the story read and think about it in their beds. If we do all the thinking for them, they are not going to do thinking about it for themselves. So we allowed them to sit with it in silence in their minds, with the Holy Spirit speaking to them and over time, it may be days, but God will continually bring the story or the Scripture back to their remembrance and teach them things as they go about their lives, teach them things as they encounter situations that will remind them... it's the Holy Spirit reminding them and speaking to them and teaching them.
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Jeannie Fulbright So the next step in cultivating our children's hearts for the Lord is that we want to cultivate an atmosphere of thoughts of God. Of course, this goes back to the idea that he's always there, and we're acknowledging that. But it's also a life of prayer and praise and just a gratitude towards him and a loyalty to our savior. Charlotte Mason says, "Our Father, who is in heaven, is perhaps the first idea of God which the mother will present to her child—Father and Giver straight from whom comes all the gladness of every day." And then she gives examples: 'What a happy birthday our Father has given to my little boy!' and 'The flowers are coming again; our Father has taken care of the life of the plants all through the winter cold!' and 'Listen to the Skylark! It is a wonder how our Father can put so much joy into the heart of one little bird!' We don't have Skylarks here in Georgia, that must be a English bird. And she says, "Thank God for making my little girl so happy and merry." Letting our children know, honestly, that when they have joy in their hearts, that comes from God. It is another one of those perfect gifts from God. That moment when you're feeling happy, that's from the Lord. Without the Lord there is no living. There is no joy. There is no...nothing good. All good things come from him. And if we can let our children know that, then, as Charlotte Mason says, "Out of this thought comes prayer, the free utterance of the child's heart, more often in thanks for the little joys of the day counted up then in desire." She calls this the rising Godward of the child-heart. She says, "The rising Godward of the child-heart is the true prayer." And so we as parents have this great responsibility to usher our children into the thoughts of God and recognizing God and gratitude towards God. And we need to cultivate that in ourselves in order to cultivate it in our children. And it's an atmosphere. It's the home atmosphere, the atmosphere of the environment, of an environment which is thinking of and giving acknowledgment to and giving praise to God on a regular basis.
Of the loyalty she tells us that the essence of Christianity is loyalty to a person—Christ, our King. She says, "Here is a thought to unseal the fountains of love and loyalty, the treasures of faith and imagination, bound up in the child. The very essence of Christianity is personal loyalty, passionate loyalty to our adorable Chief." And as we cultivate this atmosphere in our children, this choice to be grateful and praise the Lord...and honestly, I'm just, you know, just as a personal conviction, there were times in, you know, homeschooling is hard and and life is hard. And I think there's times in my past when I would have a complaining spirit where I would feel like things weren't going well so I was in a complaining attitude. And this is the opposite of the attitude that we want to cultivate in our children. And so it really is acknowledging when we are being complainers. God doesn't really like when we complain.
In 1 Corinthians 10:10, we read, "And do not complain, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel." The Israelites in the desert. And so I read that long ago and was super convicted about having a complaining spirit. And then in Philippians 2:14, we read, "Do all things without grumbling or complaining; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." And complaining really does. If we're grumbling and we're frustrated and irritated that things aren't working out as we thought they should or our day is not following the schedule or things are just chaotic, we complain in our heart and that does sort of dim the light. It dims the light and it also dims the atmosphere that we want to cultivate in our home. Grumbling and complaining is truly opposition to God. It's opposition to how God has ordained that your day should go or things should work out for you or not work out as the case may be, and just trusting God and trusting that this was God's plan for my day, this was God's plan for my child, this was God's plan for my marriage, this was God's plan and I'm going to thank God. He tells us, "In all things give thanks: for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." "In all things." Even the things that are disappointments to us or don't seem right in our lives we're supposed to give thanks in all things because this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus.
And to take it even further, James 1 tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. It's not that just we're not supposed to complain, we're actually supposed to consider all the trials and things that we face as pure joy. James 1: "Consider it pure joy, my brother, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything." And so I would say in order for us to cultivate hearts for God in our children and that continual praise and continual just lifting Godward of their heart is that we have to cultivate these very things in ourselves. We have to train ourselves to look at every mishap and issue that we face as this is something God is going to use in my life to make me more like him. I consider it pure joy that this happened or that we're dealing with this issue because this is testing my faith and developing in me maturity—spiritual maturity. And we don't grow when life is easy. I just feel like homeschooling is one of those places where it is like a crucible that grows us in spiritual maturity. I thought that I was extremely spiritually mature before I started homeschooling. It wasn't until I started homeschooling that I realized how spiritually immature I was. I got upset so easily and I wanted things to go certain way and I found that I had a lack of trust in God in the areas of education—educating my children. And God grew me. He grew my walk with him. He grew me and matured my character through homeschooling.
And I believe, homeschool moms, there is no better place to grow in your walk with God than through the trials and tribulations that come from being with your children all day long and homeschooling them and seeing them and wanting more for them and wanting better for them and learning to trust God. Learning to know that He is leading and guiding your homeschool. He is using everything you experience to sanctify you and to make you into the person that he longs and knows that you will become and you will be your eternal person, your eternal personality. And so to cultivate our children in this step, we really need to focus on cultivating ourselves and allow ourselves to be sanctified by God and choosing not to complain, but choosing to give praise to God and modeling for our children hearts that trust God even in difficult circumstances, in challenging moments in hardship. So that's where we can grow and allow God to sanctify us as we homeschool because there is, like I said, no better crucible but sanctification than the homeschool environment. So praise the Lord, praise the Lord for that. We're maturing right alongside our children.
And as we grow in these ways and are uttering our praise the Lord and choosing to show our children that we trust him, even if something bad happens, that we say, well, you know what God says we need to be thankful, let's be thankful for this, knowing that God is going to use this in some way in our lives. Referring, of course, to one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose." And so trusting that everything is under God's total, complete sovereignty and control. What this does is it fuels in our children a desire for the things have God, a deeper trust in God. It fuels in them a conscience, their conscience towards God. Their God-consciousness. And Charlotte Mason says, "Conscience...is effective only as it is moved from within...the keys...are placed in the hands of parents, and it is...in their power to enthrone the King, to induct the Priest, that every human cries for." What I love about this quote is it acknowledges a truth that I think is going to encourage our hearts a great deal, and that is that every human soul is crying for God. Every soul. Your children's hearts are hungering and crying for him. So it's not a huge, insurmountable task for us to usher our children into relationship with him. They already desire that and want that. And as Charlotte Mason says, we have been given the keys to satisfy this innate, God-given need that is already present in their hearts. Praise the Lord.
So I am going to conclude this part of the episode of Cultivating your Children's Hearts for the Lord. So part one, and I will finish with part two—steps 4-7 in cultivating our children's hearts for the Lord. I hope you found it encouraging and maybe some golden nugget that you could take away with you from today's episode. And I look forward to chatting with you next time. God bless.
Hey, a couple more things. Do you wish you had a Charlotte Mason mentor? Someone to keep you focused on the things that matter? The Lord and His word and prayer and habit training and living books, nature study, and of course, the most neglected thing of all, self-care.
Well, I have the perfect mentor for you, the Charlotte Mason heirloom planner. It is much more than a planner. It's a guide and a mentor and a place to chronicle your treasured moments and memories. All the things you want to remember and keep sacred and special from this homeschool journey. Check it out on my website at Jeannie Fulbright dot com and learn about that. And so many of the other Charlotte Mason curriculum and tools that I've created to make your homeschool journey the richest and most fulfilling experience of your life. Thanks again for listening to the Charlotte Mason show.
If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram at Homeschooling.mom. That's homeschooling dot mom and let us know what you thought of today's episode. And don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust to learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch. Go to Great Homeschool Conventions dot com forward slash Medi-Share. Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? I would love for you to come. On my website I have a special coupon code that you can use when you register. The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year with amazing speakers. Hundreds of workshops to help you homeschool well and the largest curriculum exhibit halls in the United States. People travel from all over the United States to Missouri, South Carolina, Ohio, California and Texas to find encouragement, friendship and curriculum. Be sure to go to my website Jeannie Fulbright dot com for your coupon code.
And when you're at the convention, please come by my booth and say hello because I love meeting homeschoolers in real life. It's always fun to have new homeschool friends. So thank you so much for listening and I do hope to see you at the convention. Have a blessed rest of the week.