Embrace Sabbath rest in your homeschool

Unless your faith tradition has strict rules and accountability for observing the Sabbath as a day of rest, your homeschooling family may struggle with the concept. What does God’s admonition to “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” in Exodus 20:8 even look like in our modern world? Of course, most of us go to church once or even twice on Sunday (or Saturday–for simplicity I will refer to Sabbath as Sunday). But what happens in our homes with the remaining hours of the afternoon while the world races around frantically tied to a to-do list?

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. 

– Genesis 2:1-3


Jesus clearly taught that rigidity in sabbath observance was not a reflection of his heart. In Mark 2:27-28 he made this bold statement: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The Sabbath was made for us–why would we not want to take advantage of a day of rest? It has been woven into the fabric of our beings since the beginning of time. 

For pastors, public servants like police officers and nurses, and even retail employees, Sunday may be just another day of labor. The great thing about the homeschool environment is that your family may have the option to take a Sabbath rest on another day of the week. It’s just one of the benefits of flexibility homeschoolers enjoy. So keeping your career commitments in mind, why not make it a family project to explore and define what the sabbath means for you. Refer to Exodus 20:8-11 and consider these three steps while creating a Sabbath pattern for your family and school:

  • Remember it. This is difficult if you work a shift job on the weekends, or have a calendar full of basketball games and church activities from sunrise to sunset on the Sabbath. This will mean grading papers and making lesson plans sometime other than Sunday afternoon. It may mean declining social invitations. It could even require cooking ahead, or (gasp) cleaning on Friday night.
  • Keep it holy (or “set apart”). Now we don’t want to go so far as the Little House on the Prairie days when they sat on a hard bench and meditated on the sermon all afternoon, but sabbath rest is not strictly about having fun. It is about defining a time where the pattern of tasks and productivity is set aside. Is there some habit you can begin to instill in your children such as family read-alouds, or even a quiet conversation about the upcoming week? How about resurrecting the Sunday drive (with no stops to run errands along the way)? Again, this will take a little strategizing, but the potential to create a healthier home with a planned time of rest together is not to be underestimated.
  • Ask God to bless your efforts to obey him. This is one of those powerful prayers that will come with a “yes” because we know it’s the will of God for us to specially honor him during this 24-hour time period.

Start by looking at what you do now and begin gradually changing specific habits. If you work from home, turn the computer off for 24 hours. Put all the phones in the house in a basket and check them only at defined times, if at all, during the Sabbath. If you can’t resist throwing in a load of laundry or tackling a home maintenance project, leave the house for an extended period of time. Don’t give in to the urge to turn on the TV, but reach for those dusty board games instead. Make an old-fashioned Sunday dinner and sit around the table discussing the Sunday school lessons and your pastor’s message. Better yet, invite the pastor and his family to share the meal with you. Leave the dishes in the sink–they will be there in the morning.

Of course, this will also mean reminding your children to get homework and chores done before the Sabbath begins. As your older kids begin working and making their own schedule choices, encourage them to carve out a time each week for rest and reflection. Give them an example to follow so when they leave home a pattern of rest will be second nature.

Celebrate the gift of rest that God has given you and your family, and give him thanks for providing everything you need to stop and spend a day set apart. As you begin nourishing a new pattern of living through obedience, be encouraged by the words of Pastor James L. Anderson, author of For God’s Sake, Rest!

God is pleased when we reflect his image through rest as well as work. God is pleased when we rest by trusting his Word. God is pleased when we enter his Sabbath as a sanctuary of time. God is pleased when we adopt his perspective through rest. God is definitely pleased when we make His rest our pleasure.

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Traci Matt is the author of two best-selling homeschooling books available at Amazon.

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