“Of course ‘successful careers’ are important, but I would suggest thinking of them in the very different Christian paradigm of vocation. Not, what career should I choose that will make me successful in the sense of making a lot of money, but what has God equipped me to do best and what is He calling me to do? Most Christians find that the ‘successful career’ comes as a side-benefit to responding to God’s call, whereas if you follow success as an end in itself, you can lose your soul in pursuing it.” Dr. Gene E. Veith, from our Interview with Dr. Veith: Part Two.
Happy Labor Day, everybody! Now get back to work. ha. But really, I’m excited about the holiday in large part because I love my work so much. Tending to home and family and writing about books! Wouldn’t trade it for anything. (Except maybe cupcakes.)
I thought it would be fun to think a little today about how to get your kids excited about work. In general, our culture seems to have lost much of its understanding of the blessing of work. Either work is an idol to which we go to find significance or we’re just “working for the weekend.” That’s one reason I was so pleased that Dr. Gene Veith, Provost of Patrick Henry College, was willing to talk to us about education and work last May. The word he used in his interview was “vocation.” In an article entitled The Protestant Work Ethic with Ligonier Ministries, Dr. Veith explains:
‘Vocation’ is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” According to Luther, God calls each of us to various tasks and relationships. We have vocations in the family (marriage, parenthood), in the workplace (as master, servant, exercising our different talents in the way we make a living), and in the culture (as rulers, subjects, and citizens). We also have a vocation in the church (pastors, elders, organists, congregants), but the spiritual life is not to be lived out mainly in church and in church activities. Rather, when we come to church, we find the preaching of forgiveness for the sins we have committed in our vocations. Then, through Word and sacrament, our faith is strengthened. Our faith then bears fruit when we are sent back to our vocations in our families, our work, and our culture.
So now my mind is stretching, trying to put this in the context of teaching kids to love God through their work. Early on in my mothering, I was given the advice by numerous sources (including Charlotte Mason’s works) to get my kids working early. As soon as they are old enough to toddle, have them pick up their own toys or let them take a rag and scrub the baseboards. The point wasn’t just to get free child labor. The point was to help them practice working so that they could participate in the blessing of work within the family–learning skills that would be beneficial for their entire life as well as earning a place of significance within the family. Of course, that’s been harder to do in every day life than I ever imagined. Can I just say that taking care of a family, even in the best circumstances, is hard?! And to add to the craziness another expectation that my two-year-old spend half an hour cleaning up the 1,000 cheerios he spilled into the couch…well, sometimes it’s just not doable.
But sometimes it is. And if we are training our kids to be fruitful adults, or actually even to be fruitful kids by the time they are 6 or 7, it’s worth it. It’s worth it. It’s worth it. Thankfully, I’m finally at the point where I can see the investment paying off. My oldest still wouldn’t win any cleaning awards, but she can tackle a project with a song of praise on her lips (when she isn’t whining, of course). And what a joy and blessing that is for me! After reading Dr. Veith’s comments again, maybe I’ll talk about his ideas with my kids at breakfast today. Ask them to think about how Sunday church–how the work of Christ on our behalf–has prepared them to do our work this week. It would be a good exercise for me, too!
The Mary Poppins Effect
While there are many wonderful ideas and tools for teaching your kids the habit of loving God through work, one seems particularly relevant for our blog. I can’t count the mileage we’ve gotten out of Mary Poppins’ Spoonful of Sugar song. And that brings me to this principle: It’s easier to get your kids to work when they’ve read a book (or watched a movie) that glorifies hard working kids or makes work fun in some way. So, here’s a list of books we’ve reviewed that do just that:
- The Prince’s Poison Cup–Emily’s review of R. C. Sproul’s allegory of the gospel. Perfect for discussing how Jesus’s work is the most important work of all. (Ages 4-9)
- Simonetta Carr’s biography of John Calvin–Christian biographies are one of the best ways to get kids excited about work. More on Simonetta Carr coming soon! (Ages 8-12)
- Girls at Work–Janie’s review of Joan Bauer’s novels for ages 11-14.
- The Year Money Grew on Trees–Part of Janie’s Free Enterprise series of reviews for 4th to 7th graders.
- The King of Mulberry Street–ditto above
- Lawn Boy–ditto again
Can you think of any other good books to get kids working? I think The Secret Garden is pretty positive about gardening as well as tending the metaphorical gardens in one’s care. Any others? I’d love to add some to my library cue!