real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

five stars: Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel

grace based parenting
A couple months ago I was asked to participate in a local homeschool curriculum look-see and to provide a table with books that would encourage building relationships with our children. Since I had just completed the Moore interviews, of course those books were part of my display. But as moms stopped by the table that morning and I listened to them talk about their goals for homeschooling, I repeatedly suggested reading Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel.

Though not a book written specifically for homeschoolers, Dr. Kimmel’s approach to building positive relationships with children is a practical one that will enable parents to set the tone of grace in their homes and smoothly transition with their children from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood. And it is just the material for homeschoolers that I feel is missing in much of what is taught and marketed to homeschooling families today!

Using the relationship of our Heavenly Father as the model, Dr. Kimmel does not hand out a check list of impossible standards but rather paints a picture of God’s grace in a believers’ life, demonstrating how that same grace ought to be poured out into the lives of our children. He begins his book by examining the two common parenting extremes and he explains how both of these views are equally spiritually toxic to children, eventually driving them away from the relationship with Christ we want them to have.

The first extreme view of parenting is that of having few if any boundaries. These parents don’t get involved with their children’s friends, they allow their children complete freedom on television and on the internet, allow them to date in junior high, and even provide hotel rooms for their after prom activities. Though most of us don’t believe Christian parents have this mindset, I hear this sort of discussion often among parents who take their kids to church but who don’t understand their God-given role as moms and dads in everyday life.

At the other extreme end of the spectrum are those parents who bring in their parenting boundaries far too tightly, placing undue burdens on their children, building fences where none should exist. Unfortunately, it is homeschooling families who are more apt to gravitate toward this end of the spectrum, often believing that those fences give them more approval or protection from God.

In contrast to these views, Dr. Kimmel shows us what a grace-based family will look like:

“Grace-based parents spend their time entrusting themselves to Christ. They live to know God more. Their children are the daily recipients of the grace these parents are enjoying from the Lord. If you watch them in action, they appear to be peaceful and very much in love with God. They are especially graceful when their children are hardest to love. Their advice to their children would be a mixture of: “You are a gift from God, go make a difference” and “You may struggle doing the right thing sometimes, but you’re forgiven.”

Grace based families are a breath of fresh air. They process their day-to-day life with an air of confidence that comes from knowing God profoundly loves them. The key characteristic of grace-based families is that they aren’t afraid. They are especially unafraid of all the evil around them…This changes the way children view their parents and the choices they make on their behalf. It also gives children a much more attractive view of their parents’ faith.

Parents who operate by grace instead of by a checklist or popular opinion are a lot easier for their children to trust. And when a child’s world is falling apart, he is more inclined to turn to parents whose primary description is “grace.”

Grace-based parents have a keen awareness of their feet of clay. They understand their own propensity toward sin. This makes the grace and forgiveness they received from Christ much more appreciated. It stirs them to love and good deeds for the right reasons. They aren’t driven by guilt and the need to do penance. The last thing they want to do is stand in judgment of struggling people. They see themselves in these people and understand just how much of God’s love they have received. They are more inclined to want to love these people and care for the genuine needs in their life.”

And that was just from the introduction!

Dr. Kimmel goes on to offer antidotes to methods of toxic parenting and he does so by offering real solutions offered with grace, as you would expect! Grace-Based Parenting is tied for my number one relationship homeschooling book pick. Next week I will review my other number one choice!



  anika wrote @

Thank you for this recommendation! I will hunt it down! I can see where this is most certainly the place my husband and I started out… We began our walk in Christ as parents, in Grace, abounding in the Grace that Christ had saved us with; we simply basked in it… but over time, in the pressures of church community, repeated dialoge with leadership, pastors, pastors wives, we simply wore down, we simply allowed grace so like the coating on a beautiful dining room table be scrubbed off; sanded down, stained with water rings, lists other people felt were important, and so instead of continuing in grace, and keeping our table good and oiled, which would have prevented so much of the damage to the wood, and any such “water stains” children naturally make in simply BEING children, and growing up, would have been of little consequence…
We really must be on guard, holding fast to the Truth; to the Word, and to Christ. It doesn’t have to be quite as complicated as we might make it seem.
We in our humbled home are being sanded and oiled, and attempting to simply let grace, and love cover the sins of our children, and our own for that matter… there IS training, there IS instruction in righteousness, and there is room to breath, think, ponder, and try, to make a choice and have an actual PERSONAL relationship with the Lord… not a cookie cutter ; “one must do it this way” or else…
if we fail, if we fall, HE is there, HE will forgive, HE will pick us up, He will save us, and all
by grace
thanks again for the great recommend
sorry for the ramble..

  Alli wrote @

Funny you should mention this. Our Adult SS class is discussing this book and I even came back to your blog the other day to see if you ever mentioned it in your grace in parenting blog posts.

  Jack Brooks wrote @

Tim Kimmel was very kind to me, when i phoned into his radio program one time several years ago, so i feel that appreciation for him. I did feel that this book was driven by reaction against what he called legalism, but is colored by the reverse problem — antinomianism, which is a chronic problem in dispensational theology (which I believe is Kimmel’s doctrinal system). The NT teaches laws of conduct, which include huge amounts of OT material re-formatted into the Christian era. I felt he gave short shrift to this.

  thatmom wrote @

Thanks for your thoughts, Jack. As always they are appreciated.

Dr. Kimmel addresses your concern in chapter 2 as he describes what real grace looks like as compared to “cheap grace.”

He tells a story about a family he shared a meal with at a conference he was attending. He listed some behaviors he saw in that Dave and Connie’s home that were unacceptable and that Christian parents would certainly seek to address, telling us that these parents were under the assumption that grace-based parenting is a free for all. He goes on to explain their error:

“”Grace does not lower the standards in our homes, it raises them. It doesn’t push people away from holiness, it pushes them toward it. It doesn’t cause them to despise truth, it propels them to embrace truth all the more. It encourages people to aim higher in their relationship with God and helps them dream bigger dreams. Cheap grace, on the other hand, holds people down and sets them up for heartache.

“Randy Alcorn says in his book The Grace and Truth Paradox, ‘The Christian life is far more than sin management. Behavior modification that’s not empowered by God’s heart-changing grace is self-righteous, as repugnant to God as the worst sins people gossip about. Children who grow up with graceless truth are repelled by self-righteousness and are attracted to the world’s slickly marketed grace substitutes.”

Dr. Kimmel then goes on to describe another Dad he met named Tom who shared his standards in his home and said that “grace is just a smokescreen for license. Parents preoccupied with grace are just pushovers who don’t want to teach their kids to obey what God commands.”

“Grace certainly has its share of enemies. There are those enemies who want to camp on the truth of the bible and say that life is black and white with little nuance. Parents like Tom assume that to show grace is to go soft on moral standards. They get a lot of fuel for this skewed opinion of grace from the parents who use grace as their excuse for not enforcing rules. A family without clearly defined rules and standards could never be a grace-based family. It’s too busy being a nightmare to live in.

“Tom was also making a mistake that many people wrapped up in legalistic parenting make. They look on grace as a cop-out, something used by parents who don’t want to take any of the unpopular stands that often accompany moral convictions. Those who reject a grace-based environment often lament our decline into secularism. They decry the absence of standards. They think grace allows children to do their own thing and make their own decisions at the expense of moral absolutes. They believe grace is light on discipline and doesn’t enforce rules.

“Guys like Tom may take pride in how well their children behave, but the harsh way Tom gets his results and the connection he builds between their behavior and their acceptance by God, sets them up to look elsewhere for their security, their significance, and strength. It is the lack of grace in well-behaved homes that turns children’s hearts away from God when they’re finally too big to intimidate and too old to control. There is a place for rules, even for strictness, in a grace-based home, but how they are presented makes all the difference on how they are received.

“On the other hand, seeing grace as an excuse not to parent your children within the boundaries of godliness is equally repugnant to God. It is not grace that condones the crooked paths our children may take. Rather, it is cowardice, laziness, and selfishness. Home has got to be a place where our children are safe from the traps of the world and assured that they have parents who won’t surrender God’s standards, even to them.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedeness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” ~ Titus 2:11-14”

  Jack Brooks wrote @

It’s been some time since I read this book, so you’ll have to tell me if there are other sections that might have given me the impression I still carry in my memory. Is it possible this is a second edition? I read this when it first came out, a couple of years ago. I never thought Kimmel was antinomian, but there was something about the book that stuck in my mind that way. Either I just missed that material, or perhaps he added some clarifying material.

  thatmom wrote @

Pondering some of the thoughts of Tim Kimmel that I quoted in the comment section….

My husband and I have been in a wonderful church for a little over four years after several years of patriocentric/ecclesiocentric/experimental doctrinal stuff that left us spiritually dry and emotionally drained. Our pastor is both a scholar and a humble man, a rare combination. His sermons always challenge me theologically, always make application, always inspire me to be in the Word. But most of all, they are so saturated with grace that each week when I leave worship, I love God more and long to obey Him. I am not beaten down by some man’s extra rules, I am more in love with Jesus and that makes me want to do what is right.
I want my children to look at their parents and experience the same thing as a result of how I live and instruct them.

Tall order, big God.

  thatmom wrote @

Jack, I am looking back through the book to see if I pick up what you did. Will let you know.

  shadowspring wrote @

What a lovely title for a book. =)

I have been homeschooling for thirteen years now, and my whole purpose was/is to raise my children to walk with the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth.

And you know what? I’d like to say that the Christian home schooling community has been a beloved companion on this journey, but I would be lying. From my experience, grace is the one thing they are missing, and that loss is great loss!

Perhaps that’s because of the part of the country in which we live. There is a huge emphasis on patriarchy, and on being (or at least appearing to be) the “perfect Christian home school family”.

Our family is hardly perfect, but I love them dearly and I believe God does too. It has been so hard to choose to love and support my family in the face of the disapproval of the Christian home school “support groups”.

My children were not welcomed in the Christian home school community because of hairstyles and clothing choices and lack of commitment to keeping the lesser rules of religion.

Now my oldest is in college, following the Lord and doing her best to live an authentic life of love. She is very much into fashion and style, (she does not look like a Vision Forum gal for sure!) and she’s going to college! And majoring in business! And she has a real relationship with Jesus that is the most important thing in life to her.

One of her friends was also home schooled, only with a much stricter religion and old-school curriculum than I used. This girl now declares herself an atheist, smokes both cigarettes and marijuana, drinks alcohol and sleeps around. She is totally turned off of Christianity because the love of Christ and the grace of God missing from her strict (but doctrinally correct!) home school family.

A painful reminder that without love, we are all just clanging cymbals, even if we do home school.

Grace-Based Parenting sounds like a very timely and needful book for the Christian home school community. I plan on getting a copy. I hope it sells like hotcakes at the conventions.

  titus2woman wrote @

This book title just keeps crossing my path, and so this may be the final KICK I need to run a get it! *THANK YOU!* for the review. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  CM wrote @

I have certainly been guilty of going down the checklist put forth by the latest books about the Lord, homeschooling, family, and marriage. I will be the first to admit that I have had to repent over my reliance on books instead of The Book. I’m lazy and would rather read a book than take time to pray and listen. Just tell me what to do. I can check off the boxes.

Grace actually takes relationship and relationship takes time and effort, im lazy. I would rather follow a proven method 1,2,3 than actually love and engage my children with my heart instead of a formula.

Getting this book back out….but praying for HIS Spirit as I read….

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