“If my child wins every speech debate and becomes a brilliant orator but has not love, she has become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

And although my child makes a perfect score on the SAT and receives a full scholarship to the college of his choice but he does not have love, he has accomplished nothing.

And although I have children who can make music like angels or become professional athletes, but they do not have love, it profits them nothing.”

Our children need to learn to love. The best place to learn this is not by running from lesson to lesson and opportunity to opportunity. Actually, if we’re not careful, a lot of these activities can build pride and a false sense of superiority that works against the goal of teaching children to love. The best place to learn to love and to serve is within a family.

Dr. Kevin Leman, in his book It’s Your Kid, Not A Gerbil, states the following:

Keeping your child off the activity wheel and focused on your home and values builds in your child a strong character, a foundation of belonging, and a very high chance that he or she will grow into a healthy, caring, and mature adult. Now that’s a distinct advantage that lasts a lifetime.

Families need lots of time together to allow love to develop and to flow. Children learn to be patient and kind as they deal with younger siblings who are often in the way. They learn not to envy as they cheer on their siblings as those siblings use their gifts. They learn not to parade themselves and boast as they learn to do all things for the glory of God rather than draw attention and approval to themselves.

None of this comes naturally to our fallen human natures; learning to use our gifts to glorify God rather than glorify ourselves is really foreign and must be carefully cultivated. The ability to do this will not happen on the homeschool hamster wheel, where success is often measured in prizes won rather than in whether God is glorified and neighbors loved through a child’s efforts.

The goal of teaching our children to glorify God and love others led my family to adopt a family-centered lifestyle. Family-centered lifestyles are very rare these days. Doug Philips says most homes are merely places where groups of individuals with individual lives and individual goals come together to sleep and occasionally eat. This was certainly true of my family growing up and of most of the families of my classmates. My husband and I wanted something different for our children. We wanted our family to work toward common goals. We wanted our children to have their siblings as their best friends, since these relationships are a special gift from God and tend to last a lifetime. As much as possible we want to work together, worship together, and serve Jesus together.

I’m not condemning any activity. Most of the activities that keep families exhausted and on the go are good and worthwhile. The problem is not the activities so much as a faulty value system through which we filter our decisions about how to invest our time. Our culture values achievement over character, and it’s easy to find that ideal slipping into our own value systems. My family works to evaluate the enormous sea of possible activities through the screen of our goals: a family-centered lifestyle with siblings as best friends, because this is most conducive to teaching children to glorify God and love others.

Before we commit to an activity, we put it through the screen of our priorities and ask questions. How will this activity impact our time together as a family? Is it a good investment of our time and monetary resources? What will be gained and what will be lost?

Our choices have looked different from most, but as time has passed, I’ve found that our opportunities are just as enriching without putting us on the hamster wheel. As I list things we’ve done and things we’ve chosen not to do, please understand I’m not saying any of the choices we’ve said no to were necessarily bad. We’ve worked to choose between good and better and between better and best.